• Factors associated with profitability in pasture-based systems of milk production

      Hanrahan, Liam; McHugh, Noirin; Hennessy, Thia; Moran, Brian; Kearney, R.; Wallace, Michael; Shalloo, Laurence (Elsevier, 2018-03-07)
      The global dairy industry needs to reappraise the systems of milk production that are operated at farm level with specific focus on enhancing technical efficiency and competitiveness of the sector. The objective of this study was to quantify the factors associated with costs of production, profitability, and pasture use, and the effects of pasture use on financial performance of dairy farms using an internationally recognized representative database over an 8-yr period (2008 to 2015) on pasture-based systems. To examine the associated effects of several farm system and management variables on specific performance measures, a series of multiple regression models were developed. Factors evaluated included pasture use [kg of dry matter/ha and stocking rate (livestock units/ha)], grazing season length, breeding season length, milk recording, herd size, dairy farm size (ha), farmer age, discussion group membership, proportion of purchased feed, protein %, fat %, kg of milk fat and protein per cow, kg of milk fat and protein per hectare, and capital investment in machinery, livestock, and buildings. Multiple regression analysis demonstrated costs of production per hectare differed by year, geographical location, soil type, level of pasture use, proportion of purchased feed, protein %, kg of fat and protein per cow, dairy farm size, breeding season length, and capital investment in machinery, livestock, and buildings per cow. The results of the analysis revealed that farm net profit per hectare was associated with pasture use per hectare, year, location, soil type, grazing season length, proportion of purchased feed, protein %, kg of fat and protein per cow, dairy farm size, and capital investment in machinery and buildings per cow. Pasture use per hectare was associated with year, location, soil type, stocking rate, dairy farm size, fat %, protein %, kg of fat and protein per cow, farmer age, capital investment in machinery and buildings per cow, breeding season length, and discussion group membership. On average, over the 8-yr period, each additional tonne of pasture dry matter used increased gross profit by €278 and net profit by €173 on dairy farms. Conversely, a 10% increase in the proportion of purchased feed in the diet resulted in a reduction in net profit per hectare by €97 and net profit by €207 per tonne of fat and protein. Results from this study, albeit in a quota limited environment, have demonstrated that the profitability of pasture-based dairy systems is significantly associated with the proportion of pasture used at the farm level, being cognizant of the levels of purchased feed.
    • Farm management factors associated with bulk tank somatic cell count in Irish dairy herds

      Kelly, P.T.; O'Sullivan, Kathleen; Berry, Donagh; More, Simon J; Meaney, William J; O'Callaghan, Edmond J; O'Brien, Bernadette (Biomed Central, 01/04/2009)
      The relationship between bulk tank somatic cell count (SCC) and farm management and infrastructure was examined using data from 398 randomly selected, yet representative, Irish dairy farms where the basal diet is grazed grass. Median bulk tank SCC for the farms was 282,887 cells/ml ranging from 82,209 to 773,028 cells/ml. Two questionnaires were administered through face-to-face contact with each farmer. Herd-level factors associated with bulk tank SCC were determined using linear models with annual somatic cell score (i.e., arithmetic mean of the natural logarithm of bulk tank SCC) included as the dependent variable. All herd level factors were analysed individually in separate regression models, which included an adjustment for geographical location of the farm; a multiple regression model was subsequently developed. Management practices associated with low SCC included the use of dry cow therapy, participation in a milk recording scheme and the use of teat disinfection post-milking. There was an association between low SCC and an increased level of hygiene and frequency of cleaning of the holding yard, passageways and cubicles. Herd management factors associated with bulk tank SCC in Irish grazing herds are generally in agreement with most previous studies from confinement systems of milk production.
    • Farm management factors associated with bulk tank total bacterial count in Irish dairy herds during 2006/07

      Kelly, P.T.; O'Sullivan, Kathleen; Berry, Donagh; More, Simon J; Meaney, William J; O'Callaghan, Edmond J; O'Brien, Bernadette (Biomed Central, 01/01/2009)
      Research has shown that total bacterial count (TBC), which is the bacterial growth per ml of milk over a fixed period of time, can be decreased by good hygiene and farm management practices. The objective of the current study was to quantify the associations between herd management factors and bulk tank TBC in Irish spring calving, grass-based dairy herds. The relationship between bulk tank TBC and farm management and infrastructure was examined using data from 400 randomly selected Irish dairy farms where the basal diet was grazed grass. Herd management factors associated with bulk tank TBC were identified using linear models with herd annual total bacterial score (i.e., arithmetic mean of the natural logarithm of bulk tank TBC) included as the dependent variable. All herd management factors were individually analysed in a separate regression model, that included an adjustment for geographical location of the farm. A multiple stepwise regression model was subsequently developed. Median bulk tank TBC for the sample herds was 18,483 cells/ml ranging from 10,441 to 130,458 cells/ml. Results from the multivariate analysis indicated that the following management practices were associated with low TBC; use of heated water in the milking parlour; participation in a milk recording scheme; and tail clipping of cows at a frequency greater than once per year. Increased level of hygiene of the parlour and cubicles were also associated with lower TBC. Herd management factors associated with bulk tank TBC in Irish grazing herds were generally in agreement with most previous studies from confinement systems of milk production.
    • Farm management factors associated with the Bacillus cereus count in bulk tank milk

      O'Connell, Aine; Ruegg, P.L.; Gleeson, David E; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2013)
      The objective of this study was to determine the on-farm management factors that are associated with the Bacillus cereus count in raw bulk tank milk using a cross sectional study design. Bulk tank milk quality was monitored for B. cereus on 63 dairy farms between July and August 2012. Bulk tank milk samples corresponding with processor milk collection dates were taken over a two week period prior to the farm visit and tested for B. cereus. The four most recent samples taken prior to the on-farm visit were averaged and log transformed to give the outcome variable; mean log10 B. cereus cfu/mL. On-farm data collection included recording observations and providing a questionnaire on basic hygiene, management factors and cow hygiene scoring. All independent variables were analysed individually with the outcome variable using simple linear regression and one-way ANOVA; a multivariable regression model was subsequently developed. Only significant variables were retained in the final model (P < 0.05). The geometric mean B. cereus count for all milk samples was 40 cfu/mL. The start temperature of the cleaning solution wash, dry wiping teats prior to unit application, the feeding of silage and reusing the cleaning solution more than once were all unconditionally associated (P < 0.10) with the B. cereus count in bulk tank milk but did not enter the final multivariable model. B. cereus count was four times greater (201 cfu/mL) when cows had been housed compared to when they were on pasture (50 cfu/mL). The allocation of fresh grass every 12 h (62 cfu/mL) resulted in a decrease in B. cereus count (166cfu/mL every 24 h or greater). The testing of water for bacteriology was associated with an increase in B. cereus count. In conclusion, this study highlights specific management factors associated with the B. cereus count in bulk tank milk.
    • Farm-gate nitrogen balances on intensive dairy farms in the south west of Ireland

      Treacy, Mark; Humphreys, James; McNamara, Kevin; Browne, R.; Watson, C. J.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; European Union; Dairy Levy Research Trust (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2008)
      Nitrogen management and farm-gate N balances were evaluated on 21 intensive dairy farms in the south west of Ireland for each of four years (2003 to 2006). The mean annual stocking density was equivalent to 202 kg/ha (s.d. 29.6) of N excreted by livestock on the farm. The mean annual farm-gate N surplus (imports – exports) declined between 2003 and 2006 (277 to 232 kg/ha, s.e. 6.8; P < 0.001) due to a decline in annual N imports (fertilizer, feed and imported manures; 335 to 288 kg/ha, s.e. 6.9; P < 0.001). Overall annual fertilizer N use on the farms decreased during the study period (266 to 223 kg/ha, s.e. 6.5; P < 0.001) mainly due to lower inputs for the first application in spring and for the production of first-cut silage. These decreases were partly offset by applying more slurry in spring for early grazing and for first-cut silage. The introduction of white clover resulted in lower N imports on four farms. Export of N from farms was unaffected by reductions in N imports. The mean efficiency of N use tended to increase over time (0.18 in 2003 to 0.20 in 2006). The large variation in quantities of fertilizer N applied on farms with similar stocking densities suggests potential for further improvements in the efficiency of N use. In terms of fertilizer N use, complying with S.I. No. 378 of 2006 did not require major changes in the N management practiceson 19 of the farms.
    • Farm-gate phosphorus balances and soil phosphorus concentrations on intensive dairy farms in the south-west of Ireland

      Ruane, E. M.; Treacy, Mark; McNamara, Kevin; Humphreys, James (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2014)
      Phosphorus (P) loss to water is a significant threat to water quality in Ireland. Agriculture is an important source of this P. There is concern about balancing agronomic requirements and environmental protection in regulations prescribing P management on farms. This study examined farm-gate (P) balances and soil test P (STP) concentrations on 21 dairy farms in the south west of Ireland over four years, from 2003 to 2006 inclusive. Stocking density on the farms averaged 2.4 (s.d. = 0.4) livestock units (LU) per ha. Annual mean import of P onto farms was 21.6 (1.9) kg P/ha. Fertilizer P accounted for 47% (0.041), concentrates 35% (0.060) and organic manures 18% (0.034) of imported P. The mean annual P balance per farm was 9.4 (1.2) kg/ha, ranging from –3 to 47 kg/ha and mean P use efficiency was 0.71 (0.05) ranging from 0.24 to 1.37. The mean STP per farm following extraction using Morgan’s solution was 8.15 (2.9) mg/L of soil and ranged from 4.4 (2.2) to 14.7 (6.4) mg/L. There was a positive relationship (R2 = 0.34; P < 0.01) between STP and P balance; farms with a deficit of P tended to have agronomically sub-optimal STP and vice versa. The high between- and withinfarm variation in STP indicates that farmers were either unaware or were not making efficient use of STP results, and consequently there was agronomically sub-optimal soil P status in some fields and potentially environmentally damaging excesses on others (often within one farm). There was considerable potential to improve P management practices on these farms with clear agronomic and environmental benefits.
    • Feeding Techniques To Increase Calf Growth In The First Two Months Of Life

      Fallon, Richard J.; Morrison, Steven; Dawson, L.; Twigge, J. (Teagasc, 2008-01-01)
      Data from Cornell University and the University of Illinois in the USA suggested that average daily liveweight gains of 900 to 1000 g/calf/day could be achieved from birth to weaning provided the calf milk replacer (CMR) is formulated to meet the calf’s amino acid requirements for such a rate of gain. Their findings suggested a daily milk replacer DM allowance of 1250 to 1500 g/d with a crude protein content of 26 to 30%. A series of studies were undertaken, at ARINI with home born dairy calves and at Grange Beef Research Centre with purchased dairy calves, to determine the effect of increasing the daily milk replacer DM allowance and or increasing the crude protein content of the CMR on calf performance.The main outcomes of these studies were  There was no growth or intake response in any of the studies to increasing the crude protein content of the CMP from 23% to 28%.  Calf growth rates responded to increasing the dailymilk replacer allowance from 600 to 1200 g/day for both home bred and purchased calves. However, the effect was not significant post-weaning in any of the studies.  In all of the studies (for both home reared and purchased calves) feeding a high level of CMRdecreased concentrate DM intake. However, the calves concentrate intakes were similar post-weaning.  The home bred calves with free access to the milk replacer feeders failed to consume their 1200 g/day allowance. Calves offered 600 or 1200 g of CMR/day had average consumption of 554 and 944 g/d, respectively, in the milk feeding period.  Feeding a high (1200 g/d) compared to a low level (600 g/d) CMRdiet for the first 56 days had no significant effect on carcass weight or carcass characteristics when purchased male calves were slaughtered off an ad libitum concentrate diet after 388 days. The final carcass weights were 231 and 240 kg for the respective 600 and 1200 g/d CMR.  Reducing the fat content of the CMRfrom 18% to 12% did not have any effect on concentrate intake or liveweight gain.
    • Gastrointestinal tract size, total-tract digestibility, and rumen microflora in different dairy cow genotypes

      Beecher, Marion; Buckley, Frank; Waters, Sinead M.; Boland, T. M.; Enriquez-Hidalgo, D.; Deighton, M. H.; O'Donovan, Michael; Lewis, Eva (Elsevier Inc and American Dairy Science Association, 2014-04-03)
      The superior milk production efficiency of Jersey (JE) and Jersey × Holstein-Friesian (JE × HF) cows compared with Holstein-Friesian (HF) has been widely published. The biological differences among dairy cow genotypes, which could contribute to the milk production efficiency differences, have not been as widely studied however. A series of component studies were conducted using cows sourced from a longer-term genotype comparison study (JE, JE × HF, and HF). The objectives were to (1) determine if differences exist among genotypes regarding gastrointestinal tract (GIT) weight, (2) assess and quantify whether the genotypes tested differ in their ability to digest perennial ryegrass, and (3) examine the relative abundance of specific rumen microbial populations potentially relating to feed digestibility. Over 3 yr, the GIT weight was obtained from 33 HF, 35 JE, and 27 JE × HF nonlactating cows postslaughter. During the dry period the cows were offered a perennial ryegrass silage diet at maintenance level. The unadjusted GIT weight was heavier for the HF than for JE and JE × HF. When expressed as a proportion of body weight (BW), JE and JE × HF had a heavier GIT weight than HF. In vivo digestibility was evaluated on 16 each of JE, JE × HF, and HF lactating dairy cows. Cows were individually stalled, allowing for the total collection of feces and were offered freshly cut grass twice daily. During this time, daily milk yield, BW, and dry matter intake (DMI) were greater for HF and JE × HF than for JE; milk fat and protein concentration ranked oppositely. Daily milk solids yield did not differ among the 3 genotypes. Intake capacity, expressed as DMI per BW, tended to be different among treatments, with JE having the greatest DMI per BW, HF the lowest, and JE × HF being intermediate. Production efficiency, expressed as milk solids per DMI, was higher for JE than HF and JE × HF. Digestive efficiency, expressed as digestibility of dry matter, organic matter, N, neutral detergent fiber, and acid detergent fiber, was higher for JE than HF. In grazing cows (n = 15 per genotype) samples of rumen fluid, collected using a transesophageal sampling device, were analyzed to determine the relative abundance of rumen microbial populations of cellulolytic bacteria, protozoa, and fungi. These are critically important for fermentation of feed into short-chain fatty acids. A decrease was observed in the relative abundance of Ruminococcus flavefaciens in the JE rumen compared with HF and JE × HF. We can deduce from this study that the JE genotype has greater digestibility and a different rumen microbial population than HF. Jersey and JE × HF cows had a proportionally greater GIT weight than HF. These differences are likely to contribute to the production efficiency differences among genotypes previously reported.
    • Genetic and nongenetic factors associated with milk color in dairy cows

      Scarso, S.; McParland, Sinead; Visentin, G.; Berry, Donagh; McDermott, A.; de Marchi, M.; European Union (Elsevier, 2017-07-12)
      Milk color is one of the sensory properties that can influence consumer choice of one product over another and it influences the quality of processed dairy products. This study aims to quantify the cow-level genetic and nongenetic factors associated with bovine milk color traits. A total of 136,807 spectra from Irish commercial and research herds (with multiple breeds and crosses) were used. Milk lightness (Lˆ*) , red-green index (aˆ*) and yellow-blue index (bˆ*) were predicted for individual milk samples using only the mid-infrared spectrum of the milk sample. Factors associated with milk color were breed, stage of lactation, parity, milking-time, udder health status, pasture grazing, and seasonal calving. (Co)variance components for Lˆ*,aˆ* , and bˆ* were estimated using random regressions on the additive genetic and within-lactation permanent environmental effects. Greater bˆ* value (i.e., more yellow color) was evident in milk from Jersey cows. Milk Lˆ* increased consistently with stage of lactation, whereas aˆ* increased until mid lactation to subsequently plateau. Milk bˆ* deteriorated until 31 to 60 DIM, but then improved thereafter until the end of lactation. Relative to multiparous cows, milk yielded by primiparae was, on average, lighter (i.e., greater Lˆ* ), more red (i.e., greater aˆ* ), and less yellow (i.e., lower bˆ* ). Milk from the morning milk session had lower Lˆ*,aˆ*, and bˆ* Heritability estimates (±SE) for milk color varied between 0.15 ± 0.02 (30 DIM) and 0.46 ± 0.02 (210 DIM) for Lˆ* , between 0.09 ± 0.01 (30 DIM) and 0.15 ± 0.02 (305 DIM) for aˆ* , and between 0.18 ± 0.02 (21 DIM) and 0.56 ± 0.03 (305 DIM) for bˆ* For all the 3 milk color features, the within-trait genetic correlations approached unity as the time intervals compared shortened and were generally <0.40 between the peripheries of the lactation. Strong positive genetic correlations existed between bˆ* value and milk fat concentration, ranging from 0.82 ± 0.19 at 5 DIM to 0.96 ± 0.01 at 305 DIM and confirming the observed phenotypic correlation (0.64, SE = 0.01). Results of the present study suggest that breeding strategies for the enhancement of milk color traits could be implemented for dairy cattle populations. Such strategies, coupled with the knowledge of milk color traits variation due to nongenetic factors, may represent a tool for the dairy processors to reduce, if not eliminate, the use of artificial pigments during milk manufacturing.
    • Genetic parameters for milk mineral content and acidity predicted by mid-infrared spectroscopy in Holstein–Friesian cows

      Toffanin, V.; Penasa, M.; McParland, Sinead; Berry, Donagh; Cassandro, M.; de Marchi, M. (Cambridge University PRess, 2015-01-13)
      The aim of the present study was to estimate genetic parameters for calcium (Ca), phosphorus (P) and titratable acidity (TA) in bovine milk predicted by mid-IR spectroscopy (MIRS). Data consisted of 2458 Italian Holstein−Friesian cows sampled once in 220 farms. Information per sample on protein and fat percentage, pH and somatic cell count, as well as test-day milk yield, was also available. (Co)variance components were estimated using univariate and bivariate animal linear mixed models. Fixed effects considered in the analyses were herd of sampling, parity, lactation stage and a two-way interaction between parity and lactation stage; an additive genetic and residual term were included in the models as random effects. Estimates of heritability for Ca, P and TA were 0.10, 0.12 and 0.26, respectively. Positive moderate to strong phenotypic correlations (0.33 to 0.82) existed between Ca, P and TA, whereas phenotypic weak to moderate correlations (0.00 to 0.45) existed between these traits with both milk quality and yield. Moderate to strong genetic correlations (0.28 to 0.92) existed between Ca, P and TA, and between these predicted traits with both fat and protein percentage (0.35 to 0.91). The existence of heritable genetic variation for Ca, P and TA, coupled with the potential to predict these components for routine cow milk testing, imply that genetic gain in these traits is indeed possible.
    • Genetic parameters of dairy cow energy intake and body energy status predicted using mid-infrared spectrometry of milk

      McParland, Sinead; Kennedy, Emer; Lewis, Eva; Moore, Stephen; McCarthy, Brian; O'Donovan, Michael; Berry, Donagh; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; European Commission; Marie Curie project International Research Staff Exchange Scheme SEQSEL; et al. (Elsevier for American Dairy Science Association, 2014-12)
      Energy balance (EB) and energy intake (EI) are heritable traits of economic importance. Despite this, neither trait is explicitly included in national dairy cow breeding goals due to a lack of routinely available data from which to compute reliable breeding values. Mid-infrared (MIR) spectrometry, which is performed during routine milk recording, is an accurate predictor of both EB and EI. The objective of this study was to estimate genetic parameters of EB and EI predicted using MIR spectrometry. Measured EI and EB were available for 1,102 Irish Holstein-Friesian cows based on actual feed intake and energy sink data. A subset of these data (1,270 test-day records) was used to develop equations to predict EI, EB, and daily change in body condition score (ΔBCS) and body weight (ΔBW) using the MIR spectrum with or without milk yield also as a predictor variable. Accuracy of cross-validation of the prediction equations was 0.75, 0.73, 0.77, and 0.70 for EI, EB, ΔBCS, and ΔBW, respectively. Prediction equations were applied to additional spectral data, yielding up to 94,653 records of MIR-predicted EI, EB, ΔBCS, and ΔBW available for variance component estimation. Variance components were estimated using repeatability animal linear mixed models. Heritabilities of MIR-predicted EI, EB, ΔBCS, and ΔBW were 0.20, 0.10, 0.07, and 0.06, respectively; heritability estimates of the respective measured traits were 0.35, 0.16, 0.07, and 0.08, respectively. The genetic correlation between measured and MIR-predicted EI was 0.84 and between measured and MIR-predicted EB was 0.54, indicating that selection based on MIR-predicted EI or EB would improve true EI or EB. Genetic and phenotypic associations between EI and both the milk production and body-change traits were generally in agreement, regardless of whether measured EI or MIR-predicted EI was considered. Higher-yielding animals of higher body weight had greater EI. Predicted EB was negatively genetically correlated with milk yield (genetic correlation = −0.29) and positively genetically correlated with both milk fat and protein percent (genetic correlation = 0.17 and 0.16, respectively). Least squares means phenotypic EI of 198 animals stratified as low, average, and high estimated breeding values for MIR-predicted EI (animal phenotypes were not included in the genetic evaluation) were 154.3, 156.0, and 163.3 MJ/d, corroborating that selection on MIR-predicted EI will, on average, result in differences in phenotypic true EI.
    • Global endometrial transcriptomic profiling: transient immune activation precedes tissue proliferation and repair in healthy beef cows

      Foley, Cathriona; Chapwanya, Aspinas; Creevey, Christopher J.; Narciandi, Fernando; Morris, Derek W.; Kenny, Elaine; Cormican, Paul; Callanan, John J; O'Farrelly, Cliona; Meade, Kieran G (Biomed Central, 2012-09-18)
      Background: All cows experience bacterial contamination and tissue injury in the uterus postpartum, instigating a local inflammatory immune response. However mechanisms that control inflammation and achieve a physiologically functioning endometrium, while avoiding disease in the postpartum cow are not succinctly defined. This study aimed to identify novel candidate genes indicative of inflammation resolution during involution in healthy beef cows. Previous histological analysis of the endometrium revealed elevated inflammation 15 days postpartum (DPP) which was significantly decreased by 30 DPP. The current study generated a genome-wide transcriptomic profile of endometrial biopsies from these cows at both time points using mRNA-Seq. The pathway analysis tool GoSeq identified KEGG pathways enriched by significantly differentially expressed genes at both time points. Novel candidate genes associated with inflammatory resolution were subsequently validated in additional postpartum animals using quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR). Results: mRNA-Seq revealed 1,107 significantly differentially expressed genes, 73 of which were increased 15 DPP and 1,034 were increased 30 DPP. Early postpartum, enriched immune pathways (adjusted P < 0.1) included the T cell receptor signalling pathway, graft-versus-host disease and cytokine-cytokine receptor interaction pathways. However 30 DPP, where the majority of genes were differentially expressed, the enrichment (adjusted P < 0.1) of tissue repair and proliferative activity pathways was observed. Nineteen candidate genes selected from mRNA-Seq results, were independently assessed by qRT-PCR in additional postpartum cows (5 animals) at both time points. SAA1/2, GATA2, IGF1, SHC2, and SERPINA14 genes were significantly elevated 30 DPP and are functionally associated with tissue repair and the restoration of uterine homeostasis postpartum. Conclusions: The results of this study reveal an early activation of the immune response which undergoes a temporal functional change toward tissue proliferation and regeneration during endometrial involution in healthy postpartum cows. These molecular changes mirror the activation and resolution of endometrial inflammation during involution previously classified by the degree of neutrophil infiltration. SAA1/2, GATA2, IGF1, SHC2, and SERPINA14 genes may become potential markers for resolution of endometrial inflammation in the postpartum cow.
    • Good water status: The integration of sustainable grassland production and water resources in Ireland

      Richards, Karl G.; Fenton, Owen; Khalil, Mohammed I.; Haria, Atul H.; Humphreys, James; Doody, Donnacha G.; Moles, Richard; Morgan, Ger; Jordan, Philip; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; et al. (School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin in association with Teagasc, 2009)
      The challenge for sustainable grassland production is to integrate economically profitable farming systems with environmental protection. The Water Framework Directive aims to attain at least “good status” for all waters by 2015, to be achieved through the introduction of measures across all sectors of society. Historically, the impact of grassland agriculture on water quality was investigated in isolation. More recently it has been highlighted that water quality and other environmental impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions must be considered in an integrated manner. Catchment hydrology is critical to understanding the drivers behind nutrient transport to surface water and groundwaters. Flashy catchments are more susceptible to phosphorus, sediment and ammonium loss, whereas contrastingly baseflow dominated catchments are more susceptible to nitrate transport. Understanding catchment hydrology enables the targeting of measures for the mitigation of diffuse agricultural contaminants. This increased understanding can also be used to support extended deadlines for the achievement of good status. This paper reviews the potential effects of grassland agriculture on water quantity and the transport of pesticides and nutrients to water in the context of achieving good status for all waters by 2015 under the Water Framework Directive.
    • Grazing and ensiling of energy-rich grasses with elevated sugar contents for the sustainable production of ruminant livestock (Acronym: SweetGrass)

      O'Kiely, Padraig; Conaghan, Patrick; Howard, H.; Moloney, Aidan P; Black, Alistair D; European Union; QLK5-CT-2001-0498 (Teagasc, 2005-09-01)
      Permanent grassland dominates the Irish landscape and for many decades perennial ryegrasses have been the main constituent in seed mixtures for grassland.
    • Grazing Cow Behavior’s Association with Mild and Moderate Lameness

      O’Leary, Niall W.; Byrne, Daire. T.; Garcia, Pauline; Werner, Jessica; Cabedoche, Morgan; Shalloo, Laurence; Science Foundation Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine; 13/IA/1977; 16/RC/3835 (MDPI AG, 2020-04-11)
      Accelerometer-based mobility scoring has focused on cow behaviors such as lying and walking. Accuracy levels as high as 91% have been previously reported. However, there has been limited replication of results. Here, measures previously identified as indicative of mobility, such as lying bouts and walking time, were examined. On a research farm and a commercial farm, 63 grazing cows’ behavior was monitored in four trials (16, 16, 16, and 15 cows) using leg-worn accelerometers. Seventeen good mobility (score 0), 23 imperfect mobility (score 1), and 22 mildly impaired mobility (score 2) cows were monitored. Only modest associations with activity, standing, and lying events were found. Thus, behavior monitoring appears to be insufficient to discern mildly and moderately impaired mobility of grazing cows.
    • Groundwater: A pathway for terrestrial C and N losses and indirect greenhouse gas emissions

      Jahangir, Mohammad M. R.; Johnston, Paul; Khalil, Mohammed I.; Hennessy, Deirdre; Humphreys, James; Fenton, Owen; Richards, Karl G.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, Trinity College Dublin; RSF 06383 (Elsevier, 16/07/2012)
      Estimating losses of dissolved carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) via groundwater in an agricultural system provides insights into reducing uncertainties in the terrestrial C and N balances. In addition, quantification of dissolved nitrous oxide (N2O), carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) in groundwaters beneath agricultural systems is important for global greenhouse gas (GHG) budgets. Dissolved C (DC: dissolved organic carbon (DOC) + CO2-C + CH4-C) and dissolved nitrogen (DN: NO3−-N + NH4+ + NO2−-N + N2O-N + N2) in groundwater were measured in two low permeability (<0.02 m d−1) and two high permeability (>0.05 m d−1) aquifers in Ireland. Groundwater in multilevel piezometers was sampled monthly over two years. Mean groundwater discharge to surface water was higher in 2009 (587–836 mm) than in 2010 (326–385 mm). Dissolved C and N delivery to surface water via groundwater caused substantial losses of terrestrial C and N. The extent of delivery was site specific and depended on N input, recharge and aquifer permeability. Mean dissolved N losses ranged from 8–12% of N input in low permeability to 27–38% in high permeability aquifers. The dominant fraction of DN was NO3−-N (84–90% of DN) in high permeability aquifers and N2 (46–77% of DN) in low permeability aquifers. Indirect N2O emissions via groundwater denitrification accounted for 0.03–0.12% of N input, which was equivalent to 3–11% of total N2O emissions. Dissolved C loss to surface waters via groundwater was not significant compared to total carbon (TC) content of the topsoil (0.06–0.18% of TC). Site characteristics contributed greatly to the distribution of N between NO3−-N and dissolved N gases, N2O and N2. Indirect GHG emissions from groundwater were an important part of farm nutrient budgets, which clearly has implications for national GHG inventories.
    • GWAS and eQTL analysis identifies a SNP associated with both residual feed intake and GFRA2 expression in beef cattle

      Higgins, Marc G.; Fitzsimons, Clare; McClure, Matthew C.; McKenna, Clare; Conroy, S.B.; Kenny, David A.; McGee, Mark; Waters, Sinead M.; Morris, Derek W.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; et al. (Nature Publishing Group, 2018-09-24)
      Residual feed intake (RFI), a measure of feed efficiency, is an important economic and environmental trait in beef production. Selection of low RFI (feed efficient) cattle could maintain levels of production, while decreasing feed costs and methane emissions. However, RFI is a difficult and expensive trait to measure. Identification of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with RFI may enable rapid, cost effective genomic selection of feed efficient cattle. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) were conducted in multiple breeds followed by meta-analysis to identify genetic variants associated with RFI and component traits (average daily gain (ADG) and feed intake (FI)) in Irish beef cattle (n = 1492). Expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) analysis was conducted to identify functional effects of GWAS-identified variants. Twenty-four SNPs were associated (P < 5 × 10−5) with RFI, ADG or FI. The variant rs43555985 exhibited strongest association for RFI (P = 8.28E-06). An eQTL was identified between this variant and GFRA2 (P = 0.0038) where the allele negatively correlated with RFI was associated with increased GFRA2 expression in liver. GFRA2 influences basal metabolic rates, suggesting a mechanism by which genetic variation may contribute to RFI. This study identified SNPs that may be useful both for genomic selection of RFI and for understanding the biology of feed efficiency.
    • Herd health status and management practices on 16 Irish suckler beef farms

      O'Shaughnessy, James; Mee, John F; Doherty, Michael L.; Crosson, Paul; Barrett, Damien; Grady, Luke; Earley, Bernadette; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Biomed Central, 2013-11-06)
      Background: There have been few studies published internationally which document herd health management practices in suckler beef herds and no published Irish studies. The study objective was to document herd health status and management practices on sixteen Irish suckler beef herds over a two year period (2009–2010). The farms used in the study were part of the Teagasc BETTER farm beef programme. The mean (s.d.) herd size, stocking rate and farm size was 68 cows (27.6), 2.0 LU/ha (0.3) and 64.3 (21.6) adjusted hectares, respectively. Two questionnaires were designed; 1) a farmer questionnaire to collect information on farm background and current herd health control practices and 2) a veterinary questionnaire to collect information on the extent of animal health advice given by veterinarians to their clients and identification of any on-farm herd health issues. Results: Dystocia, calf pneumonia, and calf diarrhoea, in that order, were identified as the primary herd health issues in these Irish suckler beef herds. In addition, substantial deficiencies in biosecurity practices were also identified on these farms. Conclusions: The findings of this study may serve as the focus for future research in animal health management practices in Irish suckler beef herds.
    • How herd best linear unbiased estimates affect the progress achievable from gains in additive and nonadditive genetic merit

      Dunne, F. L.; McParland, Sinead; Kelleher, Margaret M.; Walsh, S.W.; Berry, Donagh; Science Foundation Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 16/RC/3835 (Elsevier, 2019-04-10)
      Sustainable dairy cow performance relies on coevolution in the development of breeding and management strategies. Tailoring breeding programs to herd performance metrics facilitates improved responses to breeding decisions. Although herd-level raw metrics on performance are useful, implicitly included within such statistics is the mean herd genetic merit. The objective of the present study was to quantify the expected response from selection decisions on additive and nonadditive merit by herd performance metrics independent of herd mean genetic merit. Performance traits considered in the present study were age at first calving, milk yield, calving to first service, number of services, calving interval, and survival. Herd-level best linear unbiased estimates (BLUE) for each performance trait were available on a maximum of 1,059 herds, stratified as best, average, and worst for each performance trait separately. The analyses performed included (1) the estimation of (co)variance for each trait in the 3 BLUE environments and (2) the regression of cow-level phenotypic performance on either the respective estimated breeding value (EBV) or the heterosis coefficient of the cow. A fundamental assumption of genetic evaluations is that 1 unit change in EBV equates to a 1 unit change in the respective phenotype; results from the present study, however, suggest that the realization of the change in phenotypic performance is largely dependent on the herd BLUE for that trait. Herds achieving more yield, on average, than expected from their mean genetic merit, had a 20% greater response to changes in EBV as well as 43% greater genetic standard deviation relative to herds within the worst BLUE for milk yield. Conversely, phenotypic performance in fertility traits (with the exception of calving to first service) tended to have a greater response to selection as well as a greater additive genetic standard deviation within the respective worst herd BLUE environments; this is suggested to be due to animals performing under more challenging environments leading to larger achievable gains. The attempts to exploit nonadditive genetic effects such as heterosis are often the basis of promoting cross-breeding, yet the results from the present study suggest that improvements in phenotypic performance is largely dependent on the environment. The largest gains due to heterotic effects tended to be within the most stressful (i.e., worst) BLUE environment for all traits, thus suggesting the heterosis effects can be beneficial in mitigating against poorer environments.
    • How much grassland biomass is available in Ireland in excess of livestock requirements?

      McEniry, Joseph; Crosson, Paul; Finneran, Eoghan; McGee, Mark; Keady, Tim; O'Kiely, Padraig; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; RSF 07 557 (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2013)
      Grassland is a dominant biomass resource in Ireland and underpins most animal production systems. However, other commercial uses for grassland biomass exist, including, for example, the production of biogas through anaerobic digestion for the generation of heat, electricity and transport fuel. The objective of this study was to estimate the annual grassland resource available in Ireland in excess of livestock requirements under six contrasting scenarios. Under current grassland management and production practices there is an estimated average annual grassland resource of ca. 1.7 million tonnes of dry matter (DM) available in excess of livestock requirements. Only a small proportion of this resource (0.39 million tonnes of DM per annum) would be available if the targets set out in ‘Food Harvest 2020’ were achieved. However, increasing nitrogen (N) fertiliser input (to the limit permitted by the E.U. Nitrates Directive) combined with increasing the grazed grass utilisation rate of cattle (from 0.60 to 0.80 kg DM ingested by livestock per kg DM grown) has the potential to significantly increase this average resource to 12.2 million t DM/annum, even when allowing for achievement of ‘Food Harvest 2020’ targets. Under these scenarios, alternative uses for grassland biomass such as anaerobic digestion and green biorefining would not compete with traditional dairy, beef and lamb production systems, but could provide an alternative enterprise and income to farmers.