Moorepark is one of the world's leading dairy research centres and specialises in pasture based systems of milk production.Research at Moorepark endeavours to anticipate the production needs of a rapidly changing industry and develop sustainable systems of milk production that will advance the competitive edge of Irish dairy farmers on the global market. Grange Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Centre is the national Beef Research Centre which provides research information on all aspects of beef production in Ireland. Research at Grange supports the efficient production of safe, quality, healthy produce, in profitable production systems that meet stringent environmental and animal welfare standards. The Athenry Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, located in Co. Galway,provides national research services in sheep production and animal reproduction.

Recent Submissions

  • Modelling the production, profit, and greenhouse gas emissions of Irish sheep flocks divergent in genetic merit

    Farrell, L.; Herron, J.; Pabiou, T.; McHugh, Noirin; McDermott, K.; Shalloo, Laurence; O'Brien, D.; Bohan, A.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 17/S/235; et al. (Elsevier, 2022-08-31)
    CONTEXTSheep production industries face the challenge of increasing farm production and profit while reducing environmental impacts. OBJECTIVESGenetic selection using multi-trait breeding indices can be used to improve flock productivity, profitability, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensities (kg CO2-eq /kg of product), however validation of the improved performance of animals ranked higher on breeding indices at a flock level is required. METHODSPhenotypic data from 387,580 production records of animals born between 2018 and 2020 of known genetic merit in commercial flocks were inputted to an established bio-economic model. Two contrasting flocks were compared, a flock of ewes ranked High (top 20%) on the Irish replacement Index bred with rams ranked High on the replacement and terminal indices, and a flock of ewes ranked Low (bottom 20%) on the Irish replacement Index bred with rams ranked Low on the replacement and terminal indices. The two flocks were then simulated using life cycle assessment to estimate the GHG emissions profile for both systems. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONFlock weaning rates were 1.70 and 1.53 lambs weaned per ewe presented for breeding for the High and Low genetic merit flocks, respectively. The flock of High genetic merit ewes sold 0.17 more lambs per ewe, equating to 3.29 kg more lamb carcass per ewe, than the flock of Low genetic merit ewes; lambs from the High genetic merit flock were also sold at an earlier age. The greater production of the High genetic merit flocks resulted in an additional €18/ewe net profit than the Low genetic merit flock. Although total flock GHG emissions were higher for the High genetic merit flock, GHG emissions intensities were lower at 21.7 and 23.3 kg CO2-eq /kg lamb carcass sold for the High and Low genetic merit flocks, respectively. The lower emissions intensity of the High genetic merit flock was due to the dilution effect of higher lamb production and lambs being drafted for slaughter ealier. SIGNIFICANCEThe results suggest Irish sheep producers can make substantial profit gains through selection according to the national breeding indices while also reducing their environmental impact, and farmers should consider genetic merit when purchasing their rams, particularly sires of replacement ewe lambs.
  • Quantification of cow milk yield and pre-weaning calf growth response in temperate pasture-based beef suckler systems: A meta-analysis

    Sapkota, D.; Kelly, A. K.; Crosson, Paul; White, R.R.; McGee, Mark; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship Programme (Elsevier, 2020-11-30)
    The objectives of this study were to quantitatively summarize factors associated with cow milk yield (MY) and calf growth response in pasture-based beef cow-calf suckler systems and to discern how cow genotype and parity influenced these responses. A dataset of 344 treatment mean observations was compiled from 69 studies that reported data on cow MY, and calf pre-weaning average daily live weight gain (ADG) and/or weaning weight (WW). Data were analysed using linear mixed effects models with study and region included as random effects. Models were developed for cow MY, calf ADG and WW response and each model was evaluated based on different model fit statistics. The final cow MY model included cow origin (Dairybeef or Beef), cow maturity (early-maturing (EM) or late-maturing (LM) genotypes) and parity. Dairybeef produced 35.4% more milk (8.64 vs. 6.38 kg/day) than Beef cows, and LM produced 20.9% more milk (8.20 vs. 6.78 kg/day) than EM genotypes (P < 0.001). Multiparous cows had a 14.8% higher MY (8.11 vs. 7.06 kg/day) compared to primiparous cows (P < 0.001). Lactation curve persistency was better (P < 0.05) for Beef and EM compared to Dairybeef and LM genotype cows, respectively. The final models of calf ADG and WW included cow origin, cow maturity and parity. Calves from Dairybeef and LM cows were 14 and 20 kg heavier (P < 0.001) at weaning (210-day adjusted) compared to those from Beef and EM genotype cows, respectively. Calves from multiparous cows were 13 kg heavier at weaning than those from primiparous cows (P < 0.001). The response in calf ADG associated with a 1 kg increase in cow daily MY was 47 and 53 g for Dairybeef and Beef cows, respectively (P < 0.001). Corresponding responses for EM and LM cows were 51 and 55 g (P < 0.001). In conclusion, the relationships between cow MY and calf pre-weaning growth, as well as the quantitative impact of cow genotype and parity were determined for pasture-based beef suckler systems; the coefficients generated can be used for improving beef cow-calf management strategies, beef cattle breeding programmes and bio-economic modelling purposes.
  • Effect of teatcup removal settings on milking efficiency and milk quality in a pasture-based automatic milking system

    Reinemann, D.J.; Upton, John; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship Programme; University of Wisconsin–Madison; Lely (Elsevier, 2019-09-30)
    In automatic milking systems (AMS), it is important to maximize the amount of milk harvested per day to increase profitability. One strategy to achieve this goal is to reduce the time it takes to milk each cow. Several studies in conventional milking systems have shown that milking time can be reduced by increasing the milk flow rate at which the teatcup is removed. One study analyzed the effect of increasing the milk flow switch point on milking time in a confinement AMS. No research has been conducted on teatcup removal settings in pasture-based automatic milking systems. Furthermore, not all AMS remove the teatcups based on absolute milk flow rate (kg/min); hence, it is important to study alternative strategies. The aim of this experiment was to measure the effect of 3 novel teatcup removal strategies on box time (time in the AMS), milking time, somatic cell count (SCC), and milk production rate of cows milked in a pasture-based automatic milking system. Each teatcup removal strategy in this study was applied for a period of 1 wk to 1 of 3 groups of cows and then switched to the following group until cows had transitioned through all treatments. The teatcup removal strategies consisted of removing the teatcup when the quarter flow rate fell below 20% of the quarter rolling average milk flow rate (TRS20), when quarter milk flow rate was below 30% of the rolling average milk flow rate (TRS30), and when quarter milk flow rate dropped below 50% of the rolling average milk flow rate (TRS50). A limit prevented teatcup removal if the calculated milk flow rate for teatcup removal was above 0.5 kg/min. This limit was in place for all treatments; however, it only affected the TRS50 treatment. The TRS30 strategy had 9-s shorter milking time and 11-s shorter box time than the TRS20 removal strategy. The TRS50 strategy had 8-s shorter milking time and 9-s shorter box time than the TRS20 teatcup removal strategy. There was no significant difference in milking time or box time between the TRS30 and TRS50 teatcup removal strategies, probably due to the large variability in milk flow rate at teatcup removal. The TRS20 and TRS30 strategies did not differ in SCC or milk production rate. The 0.5 kg/min limit, which affected roughly 25% of milkings in the TRS50 treatment, may have distorted the effect that this setting had on milk time, box time, milk production rate, or SCC. The difference in box time for the TRS30 and TRS50 strategies could allow for more than 3 extra milkings per day.
  • Associating cow characteristics with mobility scores in pasture-based dairy cows

    Bokkers, E.A.M.; de Boer, I.J.M.; Hogeveen, H.; Sayers, Riona; Byrne, N.; Ruelle, Elodie; Shalloo, Laurence; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 14 S 801 (Elsevier, 2019-09-30)
    The quality of dairy cow mobility can have significant welfare, economic, and environmental consequences that have yet to be extensively quantified for pasture-based systems. The objective of this study was to characterize mobility quality by examining associations between specific mobility scores, claw disorders (both the type and severity), body condition score (BCS), and cow parity. Data were collected for 6,927 cows from 52 pasture-based dairy herds, including mobility score (0 = optimal mobility; 1, 2, or 3 = increasing severities of suboptimal mobility), claw disorder type and severity, BCS, and cow parity. Multinomial logistic regression was used for analysis. The outcome variable was mobility score, and the predictor variables were BCS, type and severity of claw disorders, and cow parity. Three models were run, each with 1 reference category (mobility score 0, 1, or 2). Each model also included claw disorders (overgrown claw, sole hemorrhage, white line disease, sole ulcer, and digital dermatitis), BCS, and cow parity as predictor variables. The presence of most types of claw disorders had odds ratios >1, indicating an increased likelihood of a cow having suboptimal mobility. Low BCS (BCS <3.00) was associated with an increased risk of a cow having suboptimal mobility, and relatively higher parity was also associated with an increased risk of suboptimal mobility. These results confirm an association between claw disorders, BCS, cow parity, and dairy cow mobility score. Therefore, mobility score should be routinely practiced to identify cows with slight deviations from the optimal mobility pattern and to take preventive measures to keep the problem from worsening.
  • Developments in nutrition for pasture-based cattle and sheep systems in Ireland

    Patton, J.; Dineen, M.; Keady, T.W.J.; McGee, Mark; Waters, Sinead M. (Teagasc, 2022-03-03)
    For ruminant production systems, the requirement to meet specific nutrient targets in the animal’s diet must be balanced with the aim of achieving high utilisation of forage in the overall feed budget. A focus of research and extension in an Irish industry context has been to meet these objectives using grazed pasture as the predominant forage source. This has prompted investigation to improve understanding of the components defining forage nutritive value, as well as the management factors affecting its intake and utilisation by animals. Similarly, quantifying the animal performance responses to varying type, rate and timing of dietary supplementation has been an important area of investigation. This review summarises some of the principal outcomes and developments over recent years across beef, sheep and dairy production systems. In addition, ruminant production systems are increasingly challenged to reduce potential environmental impacts by mitigating nutrient and gaseous emissions across their production cycles. Current and emerging research with regard to this issue, and enteric methane production in particular, is discussed.
  • A review of precision technologies in pasture-based dairying systems

    Shalloo, Laurence; Byrne, T.; Leso, L.; Ruelle, Elodie; Starsmore, K.; Geoghegan, A.; Werner, J.; O’Leary, N. (Teagasc, 2021-02-02)
    Grassland-based dairy production provides multiple benefits to farmers and to the wider society, but the European grassland area has been significantly reduced during the last decades. This paper aims to explore societal and economic options to support grassland-based dairy production in Europe. In the recent past, several societal initiatives have emerged to stimulate grassland-based dairy production: treaties, premiums and market concepts. When developing stimulating initiatives, the mindset of the farmer should be taken into account. Farmers are key actors when it comes to maintaining and improving grassland-based dairy production systems since they decide on the day-to-day management of the farm. To maintain grassland-based dairy production and to preserve the associated ecosystem services, it is, therefore, necessary to clearly show the importance of this production system for society to the farmers (show the customer perspective) and to support this by valuing the products from these systems accordingly. “New” business models should financially reward farmers for their added value contributions in delivering ecosystem services.
  • Irish research response to dairy quality in an era of change

    O'Brien, Bernadette J.; Beresford, Tom; Cotter, Paul D.; Gleeson, D.; Kelly, A.; Kilcawley, Kieran; Magan, J.; McParland, Sinead; Murphy, E.; O’Callaghan, Tom; et al. (Teagasc, 2022-02-26)
    The Irish dairy sector is recognised for its very significant contribution to the national economic status; it is now worth ∼€5 billion annually and represents the largest food and drink export category, which, in turn, represents one of the four largest manufacturing industries in the country. Given anticipated further growth in global demand for dairy products and the positive attributes and capabilities that Ireland has to meet that demand, in terms of pasture-based production and cost competitiveness, it is incumbent for the sector to attain the highest quality milk and dairy products. The combined collaborative approach between research and industry has ensured significant progress and enabled Ireland to remain at the forefront globally in terms of production of quality milk and dairy products. This paper highlights some specific scientific platforms and technologies currently shaping the industry in this regard and discusses current research activity as well as anticipating key requirements for future progress. While research, and farm and processing plant management have accomplished very significant advances in milk and dairy product quality, some overarching emerging challenges include product substitution and sustainability. Some key pillars for the future have been identified on which a strong, efficient dairy sector can be maintained and progressed. Specifically, the use of evidence-based information and real-time measures in prediction and decision-making will be a crucial pillar for the dairy sector of the future. This can promote an approach of proactive maintenance and optimisation of production through improved predictability and control of manufacturing processes.
  • The development of effective ruminant breeding programmes in Ireland from science to practice

    Berry, Donagh; Dunne, F.L.; McHugh, Noirin; McParland, Sinead; O’Brien, A.C.; Twomey, A.J. (Teagasc, 2022-02-25)
    A genetic improvement programme is a sustainable, cumulative and permanent approach to achieving year-on-year performance gains. Its success is predicated not only on an efficient and effective breeding programme but also on a vision of the traits of importance in the future. A single, industry-owned, centralised database for cattle and sheep has been the foundation for genetic improvement programmes in Ireland. While DNA information has been heralded as a breakthrough for accelerating genetic gain, the basic principles of a successful animal breeding programme still remain the same: (1) a pertinent breeding goal, (2) the appropriate breeding objective to deliver on the breeding goal, (3) an accurate genetic evaluation system, (4) an efficient and effective breeding scheme, and (5) a system to disseminate the elite germplasm to the end user; also of importance is a system for validating the underlying procedures and principles. The constituent traits and their relative emphasis within breeding objectives will continue to be contentious. Traits that will need to be considered more in future ruminant breeding objectives include environmental impact, product quality and animal well-being, including health; while not always explicitly included in Irish breeding objectives for cattle and sheep, indirect improvements for many are expected via the genetic improvement in traits like reproductive performance and survival as well as macro measures of quality such as milk fat and protein concentration and carcass merit. Crucial for the future sustainability of ruminant production systems is the co-evolution of management systems and breeding programmes so that the animal of the future is suited to the most sustainably efficient production system.
  • Association between clinical respiratory signs, lung lesions detected by thoracic ultrasonography and growth performance in pre‐weaned dairy calves

    Cuevas-Gómez, Inmaculada; McGee, Mark; Sánchez, José M; O’Riordan, Edward; Byrne, Nicky; McDaneld, Tara; Earley, Bernadette; US-Ireland DAFM grant; 2018US-IRL200 (Biomed Central, 2021-03-25)
    Background Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) is the main cause of mortality among 1-to-5 month old calves in Ireland, accounting for approximately one-third of deaths. Despite widespread use of clinical respiratory signs for diagnosing BRD, lung lesions are detected, using thoracic ultrasonography (TUS) or following post-mortem, in calves showing no clinical signs. This highlights the limitation of clinical respiratory signs as a method of detecting sub-clinical BRD. Using 53 purchased artificially-reared male dairy calves, the objectives of this study were to: (i) characterise the BRD incidence detected by clinical respiratory signs and/or TUS, (ii) investigate the association between clinical respiratory signs and lung lesions detected by TUS, and (iii) assess the effect of BRD on pre-weaning growth. Results Clinical BRD (based on Wisconsin clinical respiratory score and/or rectal temperature > 39.6 ºC) was detected in 43 % and sonographic changes (lung lesions) were detected in 64 % of calves from purchase (23 (SD; 6.2) days of age) until weaning, 53 days post-arrival. Calves with clinical BRD were treated. Sixty-one per cent calves affected with clinical BRD had lung lesions 10.5 days (median) before detection of clinical signs. Moderate correlations (rsp 0.70; P < 0.05) were found between cough and severe lung lesions on arrival day, and between rectal temperature > 39.6 ºC and lung lesions ≥ 2 cm2 on day 7 (rsp 0.40; P < 0.05) post-arrival. Mean average daily live weight gain (ADG) of calves from purchase to weaning was 0.75 (SD; 0.10) kg; calves with or without clinical BRD did not differ in ADG (P > 0.05), whereas ADG of those with severe lung lesions (lung lobe completely consolidated or pulmonary emphysema) was 0.12 kg/d less (P < 0.05) than calves without lung lesions. Conclusions Thoracic ultrasonography detected lung consolidation in calves that did not show signs of respiratory disease. The presence of severe lung lesions was associated with reduced pre-weaning growth. These findings emphasise the importance of using TUS in addition to clinical respiratory scoring of calves for an early and accurate detection of clinical and sub-clinical BRD.
  • Scenarios to limit environmental nitrogen losses from dairy expansion

    Hoekstra, N.J.; Schulte, R.P.O.; Forrestal, P.J.; Hennessy, Deirdre; Krol, Dominika; Lanigan, Gary J.; Müller, C.; Shalloo, Laurence; Wall, David P.; Richards, Karl G.; et al. (Elsevier, 2020-03-10)
    Increased global demand for dairy produce and the abolition of EU milk quotas have resulted in expansion in dairy production across Europe and particularly in Ireland. Simultaneously, there is increasing pressure to reduce the impact of nitrogen (N) losses to air and groundwater on the environment. In order to develop grassland management strategies for grazing systems that meet environmental targets and are economically sustainable, it is imperative that individual mitigation measures for N efficiency are assessed at farm system level. To this end, we developed an excel-based N flow model simulating an Irish grass-based dairy farm, to evaluate the effect of farm management on N efficiency, N losses, production and economic performance. The model was applied to assess the effect of different strategies to achieve the increased production goals on N utilization, N loss pathways and economic performance at farm level. The three strategies investigated included increased milk production through increased grass production, through increased concentrate feeding and by applying a high profit grass-based system. Additionally, three mitigation measures; low ammonia emission slurry application, the use of urease and nitrification inhibitors and the combination of both were applied to the three strategies. Absolute N emissions were higher for all intensification scenarios (up to 124 kg N ha−1) compared to the baseline (80 kg N ha−1) due to increased animal numbers and higher feed and/or fertiliser inputs. However, some intensification strategies showed the potential to reduce the emissions per ton milk produced for some of the N-loss pathways. The model showed that the assessed mitigation measures can play an important role in ameliorating the increased emissions associated with intensification, but may not be adequate to entirely offset absolute increases. Further improvements in farm N use efficiency and alternatives to mineral fertilisers will be required to decouple production from reactive N emissions.
  • Ver la ceguera

    Mee, John F (Anembe, 2019)
    El síndrome de la ceguera de granja afecta tanto a ganaderos como a veterinarios y es necesario conocer sus causas para poder atajarlo.
  • Relationships Among Milk Yield, Body Condition, Cow Weight, and Reproduction in Spring-Calved Holstein-Friesians

    Buckley, Frank; O'Sullivan, K.; Mee, John F; Evans, R.D.; Dillon, Pat; Allied Irish Bank; Holstein UK and Ireland; National AI Co-Ops; Irish Dairy Devy (Elsevier, 2003-07)
    Relationships among milk production, body condition score (BCS), body weight (BW), and reproduction were studied using logistic regression on data from 6433 spring-calving Holstein-Friesian dairy cows in 74 commercial herds. Multivariate models were adjusted for herd, breeding value for milk yield, proportion of Holstein-Friesian genes, lactation number, calving period, and degree of calving assistance. Significant associations between reproductive measures and components of energy balance were identified. Higher 200-d milk protein content and higher protein-to-fat ratio at start of breeding were associated with increased likelihood of submission for breeding in the first 21 d of the breeding season (SR21). High 100-d cumulative milk yield as a proportion of estimated 305-d milk yield (low persistency) was associated with a lower likelihood of pregnancy to first service (PREG1), whereas cows reaching peak milk yields earlier tended to have higher PREG1. Cows that reached nadir milk protein content relatively late in lactation had lower PREG1. Milk yield at first service and 305-d milk protein content were positively associated with the likelihood of pregnancy after 42 d of breeding (PR42). Higher 305-d milk lactose content was associated with increased PREG1 and PR42. Mean BCS at 60 to 100 d of lactation was positively associated with both SR21 and PR42, whereas nadir BCS was positively associated with PREG1. Cows with precalving BCS > 3.0 that also lost > 0.5 BCS unit by first service had lower PR42. More BW gain for 90 d after start of breeding was associated with higher SR21 and PREG1; more BW gain for 90 d after first service was associated with higher PR42. Milk protein and lactose content, BCS, and BW changes are important tools to identify cows at risk of poor reproduction.
  • The effect of rubber versus concrete passageways in cubicle housing on claw health and reproduction of pluriparous dairy cows

    Boyle, Laura; Mee, John F; Kierman, Paul J. (Elsevier, 2006)
    The effect of covering the passageways and feed face of a cubicle house with rubber flooring was compared to concrete in terms of claw health, behaviour and reproductive performance of dairy cows from a grass-based milk production system. Sixty-two, autumn calving, pluriparous Holstein–Friesian cows were introduced to the housing treatments prior to calving. Foot lesions were scored at housing, 1, 7, 12 and 16 weeks post-partum. The behaviour (activity, posture, and location) of all cows was recorded by instantaneous scan sampling over 24 h once per week from ca. 3 weeks pre-partum to 12 weeks post-partum. Estrous activity was recorded by visual observation three times daily using tail-paint and continuously by radiotelemetry from 1 week after calving until the end of the breeding season. The rubber flooring had a negligible beneficial effect on heel erosion but no effect on haemorrhage or dermatitis scores and no effect on the proportion of cows affected by severe lesions. Furthermore, there were no benefits for estrous expression or subsequent reproductive performance. There were no differences between treatments in time spent standing by cows, but cows on concrete stood more in the cubicles, while cows on the rubber flooring stood more at the feed face. This suggests that cows prefer to stand on comfortable surfaces while not feeding and that they can use well-bedded, comfortable cubicles for standing to get relief for their feet from concrete floors. This also explains the lack of a difference between treatments in claw health.
  • Post-insemination milk progesterone concentration and embryo survival in dairy cows

    Stronge, A.J.H; Sreensn, J.M.; Diskin, Michael G.; Mee, John F; Kenny, David; Morris, D.G.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Elsevier, 2005-09)
    The effect of covering the passageways and feed face of a cubicle house with rubber flooring was compared to concrete in terms of claw health, behaviour and reproductive performance of dairy cows from a grass-based milk production system. Sixty-two, autumn calving, pluriparous Holstein–Friesian cows were introduced to the housing treatments prior to calving. Foot lesions were scored at housing, 1, 7, 12 and 16 weeks post-partum. The behaviour (activity, posture, and location) of all cows was recorded by instantaneous scan sampling over 24 h once per week from ca. 3 weeks pre-partum to 12 weeks post-partum. Estrous activity was recorded by visual observation three times daily using tail-paint and continuously by radiotelemetry from 1 week after calving until the end of the breeding season. The rubber flooring had a negligible beneficial effect on heel erosion but no effect on haemorrhage or dermatitis scores and no effect on the proportion of cows affected by severe lesions. Furthermore, there were no benefits for estrous expression or subsequent reproductive performance. There were no differences between treatments in time spent standing by cows, but cows on concrete stood more in the cubicles, while cows on the rubber flooring stood more at the feed face. This suggests that cows prefer to stand on comfortable surfaces while not feeding and that they can use well-bedded, comfortable cubicles for standing to get relief for their feet from concrete floors. This also explains the lack of a difference between treatments in claw health.
  • A case study of the carbon footprint of milk from high-performing confinement and grass-based dairy farms

    O’Brien, D.; Capper, J.L.; Garnsworthy, P.C.; Grainger, C.; Shalloo, Laurence; European Union; FP7- 244983 (American Dairy Science Association, 2014-03)
    Life-cycle assessment (LCA) is the preferred methodology to assess carbon footprint per unit of milk. The objective of this case study was to apply an LCA method to compare carbon footprints of high-performance confinement and grass-based dairy farms. Physical performance data from research herds were used to quantify carbon footprints of a high-performance Irish grass-based dairy system and a top-performing United Kingdom (UK) confinement dairy system. For the US confinement dairy system, data from the top 5% of herds of a national database were used. Life-cycle assessment was applied using the same dairy farm greenhouse gas (GHG) model for all dairy systems. The model estimated all on- and off-farm GHG sources associated with dairy production until milk is sold from the farm in kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-eq) and allocated emissions between milk and meat. The carbon footprint of milk was calculated by expressing GHG emissions attributed to milk per tonne of energycorrected milk (ECM). The comparison showed that when GHG emissions were only attributed to milk, the carbon footprint of milk from the Irish grass-based system (837 kg of CO2-eq/t of ECM) was 5% lower than the UK confinement system (884 kg of CO2-eq/t of ECM) and 7% lower than the US confinement system (898 kg of CO2-eq/t of ECM). However, without grassland carbon sequestration, the grass-based and confinement dairy systems had similar carbon footprints per tonne of ECM. Emission algorithms and allocation of GHG emissions between milk and meat also affected the relative difference and order of dairy system carbon footprints. For instance, depending on the method chosen to allocate emissions between milk and meat, the relative difference between the carbon footprints of grass-based and confinement dairy systems varied by 3 to 22%. This indicates that further harmonization of several aspects of the LCA methodology is required to compare carbon footprints of contrasting dairy systems. In comparison to recent reports that assess the carbon footprint of milk from average Irish, UK, and US dairy systems, this case study indicates that top-performing herds of the respective nations have carbon footprints 27 to 32% lower than average dairy systems. Although differences between studies are partly explained by methodological inconsistency, the comparison suggests that potential exists to reduce the carbon footprint of milk in each of the nations by implementing practices that improve productivity.
  • Concentrate feeding and feed ingredients for growing-finishing

    McGee, Mark; O’Riordan, Edward; Moloney, Aidan; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (La Revue Scientifique, 2019-10-18)
    Small improvements in feed efficiency, especially during indoor ‘winter’ feeding periods, can have a relatively large influence on farm profitability. Increasing the level of concentrates in the diet reduces forage intake and increases live weight and carcass weight gains, although at a decreasing rate. Subsequent compensatory growth at pasture diminishes the advantage of concentrate supplementation of young cattle. High digestibility grass silage with moderate concentrate supplementation can sustain a large proportion of the cattle performance achieved on highconcentrate diets. Feeding management is more important when feeding concentrates ad libitum than as a supplement. The relative nutritive (and economic) value of by-product feed ingredients depends on their inclusion level in the ration, and the amount of concentrates fed.
  • A Review of Livestock Methane Emission Factors (2016-CCRP-DS.11) EPA Research Report

    O'Brian, Donal; Shalloo, Laurence (2021-11-23)
    Teagasc and University College Dublin, with support from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inventory team, reviewed the livestock methane emission factors used in the national greenhouse gas inventory approach for the agriculture sector and assessed potential reduction strategies. Livestock methane emission factors are annual estimates of methane emissions per head. They are used in conjunction with livestock statistics to estimate annual livestock methane emissions. Methane emission factors are computed using country-specific methods or methods provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Currently, Ireland uses tier 2 (country-specific data and emission factors) methods for cattle and tier 1 (default data and emission factors) IPCC methods for the remaining livestock species. The latter are less accurate than the former. The objectives of this desktop study were twofold: first, to evaluate the activity data of Ireland’s national greenhouse gas inventory’s livestock methane emission factors and, second, to update/recommend new, more advanced methods/emission factors for computing Ireland’s tier 1 and 2 livestock methane emissions.
  • Driving profitability per hectare!

    Shalloo, Laurence; Hanrahan, Liam; Ramsbottom, George; Horan, Brendan (2021-11-23)
    Summary • A resilient dairy business will be sustainable to survive milk price drops while being very profitable when milk price is high, while being sustainable across all of the sustainability indicators. • The term resilient means able to “recover, respond, deal, withstand” different internal and external challenges that may manifest themselves within the farm business from time to time. • There is significant potential to increase efficiency and productivity at farm level when compared with the average farm nationally. • The focus at farm level must be about increasing grass growth and utilisation and converting that feed to milk solids sales in as low a cost as possible. • Increasing labour efficiency by operating more streamlined work practices, using contractors and contract rearing of heifers will have a major impact on labour cost – farm labour requirements, ultimately affecting the efficiency of the overall business
  • Economic impact of different strategies to use sex-sorted sperm for reproductive management in seasonal-calving, pasture-based dairy herds

    Ruelle, E.; Shalloo, L.; Butler, S.T.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Science Foundation Ireland; Irish Dairy Levy; 15/5/696; 16/RC/3835 (Elsevier, 2021)
    To maximize efficiency, profitability, and societal acceptance of modern dairy production, it is important to minimize the production of male dairy calves with poor beef merit. One solution involves using sex-sorted sperm (SS) to generate dairy replacements and breeding all other cows to an easy-calving, short-gestation bull with good beef merit. We used the Pasture Based Herd Dynamic Milk Model to investigate the effect of herd fertility and use of SS on farm net profit in a herd of 100 cows. This was completed by simulating herds with differing fertility performance (good, average, poor), and differing farm reproductive management [conventional semen (CONV) or SS with varying pregnancy per artificial insemination (P/AI) relative to CONV (i.e., relative P/AI 100%, 85%, and 70%)]. As an additional consideration, the method of allocating SS to cows was also examined. The first option used SS on random heifers and cows (S). The second option used SS on heifers and targeted high-fertility cows (SSel). The final option was similar to SSel, but used a fixed-time artificial insemination (AI) protocol to facilitate AI on the farm mating start date (SSync). For CONV, dairy breed semen was used for AI until 50 animals were pregnant (50% chance of a female calf), whereas for S, SSel, or SSync the target number of animals successfully conceiving with SS was set at 28 (based on assumed 90% chance of a female calf from pregnancies derived from SS). Beef breed semen was used on all other dams. The results indicated that the biggest effect on farm net profit was not based on whether or not SS was used, but instead was most affected by the overall fertility performance of the herd. Total farm profit decreased by 10% between the good and average fertility herds, and decreased by a further 12% between the average and poor fertility herds. In almost all situations, when the relative P/AI with SS was 85%, use of SS led to an overall increase of the farm net profit. There was an economic benefit of using either SSel or SSync compared with S for the average and poor fertility herds but not for the good fertility herd, highlighting an interaction between SS P/AI and overall herd fertility as well as management practices. If the relative P/AI with SS was <70%, the use of SS led to a decrease in profitability in all simulations except for SSync, highlighting the importance of a good management strategy for use of SS. The findings in this study indicated that SS has significant potential to help facilitate greater integration between the dairy and beef production sectors, as well as increase farm profitability when used appropriately.
  • Identification of the blue light intensity administered to one eye required to suppress bovine plasma melatonin and investigation into effects on milk production in grazing dairy cows

    Murphy, Barbara A.; Herlihy, Mary M.; Nolan, Margaret B.; O'Brien, Christiane; Furlong, John G.; Butler, Stephen T.; Equiliume Ltd.; Teagasc (American Dairy Science Association, 2021-08)
    Long-day photoperiod is known to positively affect milk production in confinement dairy systems, and it has been hypothesized that pineal melatonin (MT) secretion plays a substantial role in this process. Specialized mammalian photoreceptors that regulate MT secretion are optimally stimulated by short wavelength blue light. We investigated the blue light intensity administered to one eye required to suppress MT secretion in nonlactating dairy cows, and subsequently examined effects on milk production in grazing dairy cows. Following a 14-d light-dark 8:16 h environmental conditioning period, 5 nonlactating Holstein-Friesian cows were exposed to treatments of <1, 70, 125, 175, and 225 lx for 8 additional hours using a 5 × 5 Latin square design. Light was administered via headpieces fitted with light-emitting diodes emitting blue light (465 nm) to the right eye. All cows were then exposed to a light-dark 16:8 h cycle for one night via the indoor lighting system (>200 lx white light). Plasma samples collected at regular intervals were assayed for MT. A dose-dependent effect of light treatment on mean circulating MT concentrations (and 95% CI) was observed [9.4 (7.2, 12.3), 5.0 (3.8, 6.6), 4.4 (3.3, 5.7), 3.3 (2.5, 4.3) and 1.7 (1.3, 2.3) ng/mL for treatments of 0, 70, 125, 175, and 225 lx, respectively. Only the 225 lx treatment acutely suppressed plasma melatonin concentration to levels similar to the light-dark 16:8 h treatment [1.9 (1.4, 2.5) ng/mL]. Forty spring-calving cows were blocked on parity, calving date and Economic Breeding Index for milk production and assigned to the control treatment or blue light to a single eye (LT) treatment from calving through 32 wk of lactation. The cows assigned to LT treatment were fitted with headpieces providing 225 lx of blue light to the right eye from 1700 until 0000 h. Mean milk production (and 95% CI) during 32 wk of lactation was not affected by treatment [20.3 (19.3, 21.3) vs. 20.9 (19.8, 22.0) kg/d, control and LT, respectively]. Within multiparous cows, a treatment by week interaction was detected, whereby LT treatment increased milk production during the first 12 wk of lactation [25.8 (24.3, 27.3) vs. 28.0 (26.5, 29.5) kg/d; +8.5%], but had no effect thereafter. Treatment did not affect plasma insulin-like growth factor 1. We identified the blue light intensity to one eye required to acutely suppress MT concentrations. Transient favorable effects on milk production were observed in multiparous cows. It remains unclear how single-eye blue light treatment affects galactopoiesis in grazing dairy cows, and further research is needed to explore whether this modality of light delivery represents a useful means to aid productivity in pasture-based dairy systems. Key words: melatonin, photoperiod, blue light, milk production, insulin-like growth factor

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