• 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.
    • Identification of possible cow grazing behaviour indicators for restricted grass availability in a pasture-based spring calving dairy system

      Werner, Jessica; Umstatter, Christina; Kennedy, Emer; Grant, Jim; Leso, Lorenzo; Geoghegan, Anne; Shalloo, Laurence; Schick, Matthias; O'Brien, Bernadette; Science Foundation Ireland; et al. (Elsevier, 2018-12-05)
      Precision livestock farming uses biosensors to measure different parameters of individual animals to support farmers in the decision making process. Although sensor development is advanced, there is still little implementation of sensor-based solutions on commercial farms. Especially on pasture-based dairy systems, the grazing management of cows is largely not supported by technology. A key factor in pasture-based milk production is the correct grass allocation to maximize the grass utilization per cow, while optimizing cow performance. Currently, grass allocation is mostly based on subjective eye measurements or calculations per herd. The aim of this study was to identify possible indicators of insufficient or sufficient grass allocation in the cow grazing behaviour measures. A total number of 30 cows were allocated a restricted pasture allowance of 60% of their intake capacity. Their behavioural characteristics were compared to those of 10 cows (control group) with pasture allowance of 100% of their intake capacity. Grazing behaviour and activity of cows were measured using the RumiWatchSystem for a complete experimental period of 10 weeks. The results demonstrated that the parameter of bite frequency was significantly different between the restricted and the control groups. There were also consistent differences observed between the groups for rumination time per day, rumination chews per bolus and frequency of cows standing or lying.
    • Improving Farm Sustainability: Practical Tools for Farmers

      Teagasc (Teagasc, 2019-05-03)
      Irish agriculture rightly has a global reputation for high environmental standards. However, these standards continue to become more stringent, and the expansion in dairying since milk quota removal is adding further pressure. Early action is key to meeting the environmental challenges of reducing greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions, increasing carbon capture, improving water quality, protecting and improving biodiversity. There are a range of farm practices that dairy farmers can implement easily on their farms that can combine profitability gains while contributing to meeting these sustainability challenges. Some of these are outlined in this practical guide of what you can do on your farm to help meet the environmental challenges.
    • Improving robustness and accuracy of predicted daily methane emissions of dairy cows using milk mid‐infrared spectra

      Vanlierde, Amélie; Dehareng, Frédéric; Gengler, Nicolas; Froidmont, Eric; McParland, Sinead; Kreuzer, Michael; Bell, Matthew; Lund, Peter; Martin, Cécile; Kuhla, Björn; et al. (Wiley, 2020-11-22)
      BACKGROUND A robust proxy for estimating methane (CH4) emissions of individual dairy cows would be valuable especially for selective breeding. This study aimed to improve the robustness and accuracy of prediction models that estimate daily CH4 emissions from milk Fourier transform mid‐infrared (FT‐MIR) spectra by (i) increasing the reference dataset and (ii) adjusting for routinely recorded phenotypic information. Prediction equations for CH4 were developed using a combined dataset including daily CH4 measurements (n = 1089; g d−1) collected using the SF6 tracer technique (n = 513) and measurements using respiration chambers (RC, n = 576). Furthermore, in addition to the milk FT‐MIR spectra, the variables of milk yield (MY) on the test day, parity (P) and breed (B) of cows were included in the regression analysis as explanatory variables. RESULTS Models developed based on a combined RC and SF6 dataset predicted the expected pattern in CH4 values (in g d−1) during a lactation cycle, namely an increase during the first weeks after calving followed by a gradual decrease until the end of lactation. The model including MY, P and B information provided the best prediction results (cross‐validation statistics: R2 = 0.68 and standard error = 57 g CH4 d−1). CONCLUSIONS The models developed accounted for more of the observed variability in CH4 emissions than previously developed models and thus were considered more robust. This approach is suitable for large‐scale studies (e.g. animal genetic evaluation) where robustness is paramount for accurate predictions across a range of animal conditions. © 2020 Society of Chemical Industry
    • Imputation of ungenotyped parental genotypes in dairy and beef cattle from progeny genotypes

      Berry, Donagh; McParland, Sinead; Kearney, J.F.; Sargolzaei, Mehdi; Mullen, Michael P.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; Science Foundation Ireland; European Union; RSF-06-0353; RSF-06-0428; et al. (Cambridge University Press, 2014-04-09)
      The objective of this study was to quantify the accuracy of imputing the genotype of parents using information on the genotype of their progeny and a family-based and population-based imputation algorithm. Two separate data sets were used, one containing both dairy and beef animals (n = 3122) with high-density genotypes (735 151 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)) and the other containing just dairy animals (n = 5489) with medium-density genotypes (51 602 SNPs). Imputation accuracy of three different genotype density panels were evaluated representing low (i.e. 6501 SNPs), medium and high density. The full genotypes of sires with genotyped half-sib progeny were masked and subsequently imputed. Genotyped half-sib progeny group sizes were altered from 4 up to 12 and the impact on imputation accuracy was quantified. Up to 157 and 258 sires were used to test the accuracy of imputation in the dairy plus beef data set and the dairy-only data set, respectively. The efficiency and accuracy of imputation was quantified as the proportion of genotypes that could not be imputed, and as both the genotype concordance rate and allele concordance rate. The median proportion of genotypes per animal that could not be imputed in the imputation process decreased as the number of genotyped half-sib progeny increased; values for the medium-density panel ranged from a median of 0.015 with a half-sib progeny group size of 4 to a median of 0.0014 to 0.0015 with a half-sib progeny group size of 8. The accuracy of imputation across different paternal half-sib progeny group sizes was similar in both data sets. Concordance rates increased considerably as the number of genotyped half-sib progeny increased from four (mean animal allele concordance rate of 0.94 in both data sets for the medium-density genotype panel) to five (mean animal allele concordance rate of 0.96 in both data sets for the medium-density genotype panel) after which it was relatively stable up to a half-sib progeny group size of eight. In the data set with dairy-only animals, sufficient sires with paternal half-sib progeny groups up to 12 were available and the withinanimal mean genotype concordance rates continued to increase up to this group size. The accuracy of imputation was worst for the low-density genotypes, especially with smaller half-sib progeny group sizes but the difference in imputation accuracy between density panels diminished as progeny group size increased; the difference between high and medium-density genotype panels was relatively small across all half-sib progeny group sizes. Where biological material or genotypes are not available on individual animals, at least five progeny can be genotyped (on either a medium or high-density genotyping platform) and the parental alleles imputed with, on average, ⩾96% accuracy.
    • Infrared thermography as a tool to detect hoof lesions in sheep

      Byrne, Daire T; Berry, Donagh; Esmonde, Harold; McGovern, Fiona; Creighton, Philip; McHugh, Noirin; Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine; RSF 11/S/133 (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2018-12-08)
      Lameness has a major negative impact on sheep production. The objective of this study was to 1) quantify the repeatability of sheep hoof temperatures estimated using infrared thermography (IRT); 2) determine the relationship between ambient temperature, sheep hoof temperature, and sheep hoof health status; and 3) validate the use of IRT to detect infection in sheep hooves. Three experiments (a repeatability, exploratory, and validation experiment) were conducted over 10 distinct nonconsecutive days. In the repeatability experiment, 30 replicate thermal images were captured from each of the front and back hooves of nine ewes on a single day. In the exploratory experiment, hoof lesion scores, locomotion scores, and hoof thermal images were recorded every day from the same cohort of 18 healthy ewes in addition to a group of lame ewes, which ranged from one to nine ewes on each day. Hoof lesion and locomotion scores were blindly recorded by three independent operators. In the validation experiment, all of the same procedures from the exploratory experiment were applied to a new cohort of 40 ewes across 2 d. The maximum and average temperature of each hoof was extracted from the thermal images. Repeatability of IRT measurements was assessed by partitioning the variance because of ewe and error using mixed models. The relationship between ambient temperature, hoof temperature, and hoof health status was quantified using mixed models. The percentage of hooves correctly classified as healthy (i.e., specificity) and infected (i.e., sensitivity) was calculated for a range of temperature thresholds. Results showed that a small-to-moderate proportion of the IRT-estimated temperature variability in a given hoof was due to error (1.6% to 20.7%). A large temperature difference (8.5 °C) between healthy and infected hooves was also detected. The maximum temperature of infected hooves was unaffected by ambient temperature (P > 0.05), whereas the temperature of healthy hooves was associated with ambient temperature. The best sensitivity (92%) and specificity (91%) results in the exploratory experiment were observed when infected hooves were defined as having a maximum hoof temperature ≥9 °C above the average of the five coldest hooves in the flock on that day. When the same threshold was applied to the validation dataset, a sensitivity of 77% and specificity of 78% was achieved, indicating that IRT could have the potential to detect infection in sheep hooves.
    • Intake, growth and carcass traits in male progeny of sires differing in genetic merit for beef production

      Clarke, Anne Marie; Drennan, Michael J; McGee, Mark; Kenny, David A.; Evans, R. D.; Berry, Donagh (Cambridge University Press, 2009-06)
      Validation of economic indexes under a controlled experimental environment, can aid in their acceptance and use as breeding tools to increase herd profitability. The objective of this study was to compare intake, growth and carcass traits in bull and steer progeny of high and low ranking sires, for genetic merit in an economic index. The Beef Carcass Index (BCI; expressed in euro (€) and based on weaning weight, feed intake, carcass weight, carcass conformation and fat scores) was generated by the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation as a tool to compare animals on genetic merit for the expected profitability of their progeny at slaughter. A total of 107 male suckler herd progeny, from 22 late-maturing ‘continental’ beef sires of high (n = 11) or low (n = 11) BCI were compared under either a bull or steer production system, and slaughtered at approximately 16 and 24 months of age, respectively. All progeny were purchased after weaning at approximately 6 to 8 months of age. Dry matter (DM) intake and live-weight gain in steer progeny offered grazed grass or grass silage alone, did not differ between the two genetic groups. Similarly, DM intake and feed efficiency did not differ between genetic groups during an ad libitum concentrate-finishing period on either production system. Carcasses of progeny of high BCI sires were 14 kg heavier (P < 0.05) than those of low BCI sires. In a series of regression analyses, increasing sire BCI resulted in increases in carcass weight (P < 0.01) and carcass conformation (P = 0.051) scores, and decreases in carcass fat (P < 0.001) scores, but had no effect on weaning weight or DM intake of the progeny. Each unit increase in sire expected progeny difference led to an increase in progeny weaning weight, DM intake, carcass weight, carcass conformation score and carcass fat score of 1.0 (s.e. = 0.53) kg, 1.1 (s.e. = 0.32) kg, 1.3 (s.e. = 0.31) kg, 0.9 (s.e. = 0.32; scale 1 to 15) and 1.0 (s.e. = 0.25; scale 1 to 15), respectively, none of which differed from the theoretical expectation of unity. The expected difference in profitability at slaughter between progeny of the high and low BCI sires was €42, whereas the observed phenotypic profit differential of the progeny was €53 in favour of the high BCI sires. Results from this study indicate that the BCI is a useful tool in the selection of genetically superior sires, and that actual progeny performance under the conditions of this study is within expectations for both bull and steer beef production systems.
    • Integrated analysis of the local and systemic changes preceding the development of post-partum cytological endometritis

      Foley, Cathriona; Chapwanya, Aspinas; Callanan, John J; Whiston, Ronan; Miranda-CasoLuengo, Raúl; Lu, Junnan; Meijer, Wim G; Lynn, David J; O'Farrelly, Cliona; Meade, Kieran G (Biomed Central, 2015-10-19)
      Background The regulation of endometrial inflammation has important consequences for the resumption of bovine fertility postpartum. All cows experience bacterial influx into the uterus after calving; however a significant proportion fail to clear infection leading to the development of cytological endometritis (CE) and compromised fertility. We hypothesised that early immunological changes could not only act as potential prognostic biomarkers for the subsequent development of disease but also shed light on the pathogenesis of endometritis in the postpartum dairy cow. Methods Endometrial biopsy RNA was extracted from 15 cows at 7 and 21 days postpartum (DPP), using the Qiagen RNeasy® Plus Mini kit and quality determined using an Agilent 2100 bioanalyser. Disease status was determined by histpathology based on inflammatory cell infiltrate. RNA-seq of both mRNA and miRNA libraries were performed on an Illumina® HiSeq™ 2000. Paired reads were aligned to the bovine genome with Bowtie2 and differentially expressed genes were identified using EdgeR. Significantly over-represented Gene Ontology terms were identified using GO-seq, and pathway analysis was performed using KEGG. Quanititative real-time PCR was also performed for validation (ABI 7500 fast). Haematology was assessed using an automated ADVIA 2120 analyser. Serum proteins were evaluated by ELISA and metabolite analysis was performed using a Beckman Coulter AU 400 clinical analyser. Terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) was used to obtain fingerprints of the microbial communities present. Results Next-generation sequencing from endometrial biopsies taken at 7 DPP identified significant induction of inflammatory gene expression in all cows. Despite the common inflammatory profile and enrichment of the Toll-like receptor and NFκB pathways, 73 genes and 31 miRNAs were significantly differentially expressed between healthy cows (HC, n = 9) and cows which subsequently developed CE at 7 DPP (n = 6, FDR < 0.1). While significant differential expression of 4197 genes in the transcriptome of healthy cows between 7 and 21 DPP showed the transition from a proinflammatory to tissue profliferation and repair, only 31 genes were differentially expressed in cows with CE (FDR < 0.1), indicating the arrest of such a transition. A link betwene the dysregulated inflammatory response and the composition of the uterine microbial communities was suggested by the presence of significant differences in uterine bacterial tRFLP profiles between HC and CE groups. Furthermore, inflammatory activity was not confined to the uterus; decreased circulating granulocytes and increased Acute Phase Protein (SAA and HP) expression levels were detected in plasma at 7 DPP in cows that developed CE. Conclusion Our data suggests that the IL1 and IL17 inflammatory cascade activated early postpartum is resolved thereby restoring homeostasis in healthy cows by 21 DPP, but this transition fails to occur in cows which develop CE. Despite a common early inflammatory profile, elevated and differential expression of specific immune genes may identify cows at risk of prolonged inflammation and the development of CE postpartum.
    • Integrated analysis of the local and systemic changes preceding the development of post-partum cytological endometritis

      Foley, Cathriona; Chapwanya, Aspinas; Callanan, John J; Whiston, Ronan; Miranda-CasoLuengo, Raúl; Lu, Junnan; Meijer, Wim G; Lynn, David J; O'Farrelly, Cliona; Meade, Kieran G (Biomed Central, 2015-10-19)
      Background The regulation of endometrial inflammation has important consequences for the resumption of bovine fertility postpartum. All cows experience bacterial influx into the uterus after calving; however a significant proportion fail to clear infection leading to the development of cytological endometritis (CE) and compromised fertility. We hypothesised that early immunological changes could not only act as potential prognostic biomarkers for the subsequent development of disease but also shed light on the pathogenesis of endometritis in the postpartum dairy cow. Methods Endometrial biopsy RNA was extracted from 15 cows at 7 and 21 days postpartum (DPP), using the Qiagen RNeasy® Plus Mini kit and quality determined using an Agilent 2100 bioanalyser. Disease status was determined by histpathology based on inflammatory cell infiltrate. RNA-seq of both mRNA and miRNA libraries were performed on an Illumina® HiSeq™ 2000. Paired reads were aligned to the bovine genome with Bowtie2 and differentially expressed genes were identified using EdgeR. Significantly over-represented Gene Ontology terms were identified using GO-seq, and pathway analysis was performed using KEGG. Quanititative real-time PCR was also performed for validation (ABI 7500 fast). Haematology was assessed using an automated ADVIA 2120 analyser. Serum proteins were evaluated by ELISA and metabolite analysis was performed using a Beckman Coulter AU 400 clinical analyser. Terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) was used to obtain fingerprints of the microbial communities present. Results Next-generation sequencing from endometrial biopsies taken at 7 DPP identified significant induction of inflammatory gene expression in all cows. Despite the common inflammatory profile and enrichment of the Toll-like receptor and NFκB pathways, 73 genes and 31 miRNAs were significantly differentially expressed between healthy cows (HC, n = 9) and cows which subsequently developed CE at 7 DPP (n = 6, FDR < 0.1). While significant differential expression of 4197 genes in the transcriptome of healthy cows between 7 and 21 DPP showed the transition from a proinflammatory to tissue profliferation and repair, only 31 genes were differentially expressed in cows with CE (FDR < 0.1), indicating the arrest of such a transition. A link betwene the dysregulated inflammatory response and the composition of the uterine microbial communities was suggested by the presence of significant differences in uterine bacterial tRFLP profiles between HC and CE groups. Furthermore, inflammatory activity was not confined to the uterus; decreased circulating granulocytes and increased Acute Phase Protein (SAA and HP) expression levels were detected in plasma at 7 DPP in cows that developed CE. Conclusion Our data suggests that the IL1 and IL17 inflammatory cascade activated early postpartum is resolved thereby restoring homeostasis in healthy cows by 21 DPP, but this transition fails to occur in cows which develop CE. Despite a common early inflammatory profile, elevated and differential expression of specific immune genes may identify cows at risk of prolonged inflammation and the development of CE postpartum.
    • An integrated assessment of nitrogen source, transformation and fate within an intensive dairy system to inform management change

      Clagnan, Elisa; Thornton, Steven F.; Rolfe, Stephen A.; Wells, Naomi S.; Knoeller, Kay; Murphy, John; Tuohy, Patrick; Daly, Karen M.; Healy, Mark G.; Ezzati, Golnaz; et al. (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2019-07-23)
      From an environmental perspective optimised dairy systems, which follow current regulations, still have low nitrogen (N) use efficiency, high N surplus (kg N ha-1) and enable ad-hoc delivery of direct and indirect reactive N losses to water and the atmosphere. The objective of the present study was to divide an intensive dairy farm into N attenuation capacity areas based on this ad-hoc delivery. Historical and current spatial and temporal multi-level datasets (stable isotope and dissolved gas) were combined and interpreted. Results showed that the farm had four distinct attenuation areas: high N attenuation: characterised by ammonium-N (NH4+-N) below 0.23 mg NH4+-N l-1 and nitrate (NO3--N) below 5.65 mg NO3--N l-1 in surface, drainage and groundwater, located on imperfectly to moderately-well drained soils with high denitrification potential and low nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions (av. 0.0032 mg N2O-N l-1); moderate N attenuation: characterised by low NO3--N concentration in drainage water but high N2O production (0.0317 mg N2O-N l-1) and denitrification potential lower than group 1 (av. δ15N-NO3-: 16.4‰, av. δ18O-NO3-: 9.2‰), on well to moderately drained soils; low N attenuation—area 1: characterised by high NO3--N (av. 6.90 mg NO3--N l-1) in drainage water from well to moderately-well drained soils, with low denitrification potential (av. δ15N-NO3-: 9.5‰, av. δ18O-NO3-: 5.9‰) and high N2O emissions (0.0319 mg N2O l-1); and low N attenuation—area 2: characterised by high NH4+-N (av. 3.93 mg NH4+-N l-1 and high N2O emissions (av. 0.0521 mg N2O l-1) from well to imperfectly drained soil. N loads on site should be moved away from low attenuation areas and emissions to air and water should be assessed.
    • Inter-relationships among alternative definitions of feed efficiency in grazing lactating dairy cows

      Hurley, A. M.; Lopez-Villalobos, N.; McParland, Sinead; Kennedy, Emer; Lewis, Eva; O'Donovan, Michael; Burke, Jennifer L.; Berry, Donagh; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Marie Curie project (Elsevier for American Dairy Science Association, 2015-11-14)
      International interest in feed efficiency, and in particular energy intake and residual energy intake (REI), is intensifying due to a greater global demand for animal-derived protein and energy sources. Feed efficiency is a trait of economic importance, and yet is overlooked in national dairy cow breeding goals. This is due primarily to a lack of accurate data on commercial animals, but also a lack of clarity on the most appropriate definition of the feed intake and utilization complex. The objective of the present study was to derive alternative definitions of energetic efficiency in grazing lactating dairy cows and to quantify the inter-relationships among these alternative definitions. Net energy intake (NEI) from pasture and concentrate intake was estimated up to 8 times per lactation for 2,693 lactations from 1,412 Holstein-Friesian cows. Energy values of feed were based on the French Net Energy system where 1 UFL is the net energy requirements for lactation equivalent of 1 kg of air-dry barley. A total of 8,183 individual feed intake measurements were available. Energy balance was defined as the difference between NEI and energy expenditure. Efficiency traits were either ratio-based or residual-based; the latter were derived from least squares regression models. Residual energy intake was defined as NEI minus predicted energy to fulfill the requirements for the various energy sinks. The energy sinks (e.g., NEL, metabolic live weight) and additional contributors to energy kinetics (e.g., live weight loss) combined, explained 59% of the variation in NEI, implying that REI represented 41% of the variance in total NEI. The most efficient 10% of test-day records, as defined by REI (n = 709), on average were associated with a 7.59 UFL/d less NEI (average NEI of the entire population was 16.23 UFL/d) than the least efficient 10% of test-day records based on REI (n = 709). Additionally, the most efficient 10% of test-day records, as defined by REI, were associated with superior energy conversion efficiency (ECE, i.e., NEL divided by NEI; ECE = 0.55) compared with the least efficient 10% of test-day records (ECE = 0.33). Moreover, REI was positively correlated with energy balance, implying that more negative REI animals (i.e., deemed more efficient) are expected to be, on average, in greater negative energy balance. Many of the correlations among the 14 defined efficiency traits differed from unity, implying that each trait is measuring a different aspect of efficiency.
    • Investigating the role of stocking rate and prolificacy potential on profitability of grass based sheep production systems

      Bohan, A.; Creighton, Philip; Boland, T.M.; Shalloo, Laurence; Earle, Elizabeth; McHugh, Noirin; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 15/S/696 (Elsevier BV, 2018-02-21)
      The objective of this study was to simulate and compare the profitability of a grass based sheep production system under three stocking rates and two prolificacy rates. Analysis was conducted using the Teagasc Lamb Production Model (TLPM), a stochastic budgetary simulation model of a sheep farm. Experimental data from the Teagasc Athenry Research Demonstration Flock was used to parameterise the model at three stocking rates (10, 12 and 14 ewes/ha) and two prolificacy potentials (1.5 and 1.8 lambs weaned per ewe joined to the ram). The TLPM assessed the performance of the key factors affecting profitability and was also used to evaluate the spread in profitability associated with some stochastic variables included in the analysis. The number of lambs weaned per hectare increased with stocking rate and prolificacy potential from 16 lambs/ha to 27 lambs/ha resulting in carcass weight produced per hectare ranging from 272 kg/ha to 474 kg/ha. Increasing stocking rates resulted in lower individual lamb performance from grass and milk, thereby increasing the proportion of lambs which required concentrate for finishing, which resulted in higher input costs on a per animal basis. As the number of lambs weaned per hectare increased, net profit increased from €361/ha to €802/ha. Across all stocking rates, increasing weaning rate from 1.5 to 1.8 lambs weaned per ewe joined increased net profit, on average, by €336/ha. Increasing stocking rate, at 1.5 lambs weaned per ewe joined, increased net profit on average by €15/ha while increasing stocking rate, at 1.8 lambs weaned per ewe joined increased net profit on average by €87/ha. Risk analysis showed that across all stocking rates the high prolificacy scenarios achieved greater profits across the variation in input variables. Results from this study indicate that lambs weaned per hectare linked with grass growth and utilisations are the key drivers of profitability on Irish grass based sheep production systems.
    • An investigation into the factors associated with ewe colostrum production

      Campion, Frank P.; Crosby, Thomas F.; Creighton, Philip; Fahey, Alan G.; Boland, Tommy M.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier BV, 2019-09)
      The majority of lamb mortality which occurs during the first 24 h post-partum is preventable through providing the lamb with sufficient quantities of high quality colostrum during this time. Data from seven late gestation nutrition experiments carried out at this institute between 2002 and 2014 were collated into a single data set comprising of 415 twin bearing ewes. Analysis was carried out to investigate the key drivers of ewe colostrum production excluding nutrient intake, namely body reserve mobilisation, ewe breed type, ewe age, gestation length and lamb birth weight. The volume of colostrum produced at 1 and 18 h post-partum was significantly lower than the volume recorded at 10 h post-partum (P = 0.01). Multivariate regression analysis indicated that colostrum volume during the first 18 h post-partum was influenced by lamb birth weight (P = 0.01), ewe age (P = 0.01), breed type (P = 0. 01) and gestation length (P = 0.06). Live weight change (P = 0.05) also had a significant influence on the volume of colostrum produced but BCS change did not affect colostrum production (P = 0.25). Further multivariate regression analysis indicated that IgG yield was influenced ewe breed type (P = 0.01), lamb birth weight (P = 0.02), gestation length (P = 0.05) and BCS change (P = 0.04). Live weight change (P = 0.12) and ewe age (P = 0.62) did not influence the quantity of IgG produced. Leicester ewes produced less colostrum per kg lamb birth weight at 1 h post-partum compared to all other ewe breed types (P = 0.01) and less than Suffolk ewes at 10 h post-partum (P = 0.01). The result of this analysis shows the key factors excluding ewe nutrition that drive colostrum production. Ewe breed type in particular appears to play an important role in the ability of the ewe to produce sufficient quantities of adequate quality colostrum. In conclusion the result of this analysis highlights the important factors associated with ewe colostrum volume and IgG yield excluding nutrition. In particular the overall structure of the flock such as breed type and ewe age is important when considering the ability of the flock to meet colostrum demands and hence reduce lamb mortality.
    • Invited review: Milk lactose—Current status and future challenges in dairy cattle

      Costa, Angela; Lopez-Villalobos, N.; Sneddon, N.W.; Shalloo, Laurence; Franzoi, Marco; de Marchi, M.; Penasa, M.; University of Padova, Italy; DOR1721792/17 (Elsevier, 2019-05-10)
      Lactose is the main carbohydrate in mammals' milk, and it is responsible for the osmotic equilibrium between blood and alveolar lumen in the mammary gland. It is the major bovine milk solid, and its synthesis and concentration in milk are affected mainly by udder health and the cow's energy balance and metabolism. Because this milk compound is related to several biological and physiological factors, information on milk lactose in the literature varies from chemical properties to heritability and genetic associations with health traits that may be exploited for breeding purposes. Moreover, lactose contributes to the energy value of milk and is an important ingredient for the food and pharmaceutical industries. Despite this, lactose has seldom been included in milk payment systems, and it has never been used as an indicator trait in selection indices. The interest in lactose has increased in recent years, and a summary of existing information about lactose in the dairy sector would be beneficial for the scientific community and the dairy industry. The present review collects and summarizes knowledge about lactose by covering and linking several aspects of this trait in bovine milk. Finally, perspectives on the use of milk lactose in dairy cattle, especially for selection purposes, are outlined.
    • Invited review: Nitrogen in ruminant nutrition: A review of measurement techniques

      Hristov, A.N.; Bannink, A.; Crompton, L.A.; Huhtanen, P.; Kreuzer, M.; McGee, Mark; Nozière, P.; Reynolds, C.K.; Bayat, A.R.; Yáñez-Ruiz, D.R.; et al. (American Dairy Science Association, 2019-04-25)
      Nitrogen is a component of essential nutrients critical for the productivity of ruminants. If excreted in excess, N is also an important environmental pollutant contributing to acid deposition, eutrophication, human respiratory problems, and climate change. The complex microbial metabolic activity in the rumen and the effect on subsequent processes in the intestines and body tissues make the study of N metabolism in ruminants challenging compared with nonruminants. Therefore, using accurate and precise measurement techniques is imperative for obtaining reliable experimental results on N utilization by ruminants and evaluating the environmental impacts of N emission mitigation techniques. Changeover design experiments are as suitable as continuous ones for studying protein metabolism in ruminant animals, except when changes in body weight or carryover effects due to treatment are expected. Adaptation following a dietary change should be allowed for at least 2 (preferably 3) wk, and extended adaptation periods may be required if body pools can temporarily supply the nutrients studied. Dietary protein degradability in the rumen and intestines are feed characteristics determining the primary AA available to the host animal. They can be estimated using in situ, in vitro, or in vivo techniques with each having inherent advantages and disadvantages. Accurate, precise, and inexpensive laboratory assays for feed protein availability are still needed. Techniques used for direct determination of rumen microbial protein synthesis are laborious and expensive, and data variability can be unacceptably large; indirect approaches have not shown the level of accuracy required for widespread adoption. Techniques for studying postruminal digestion and absorption of nitrogenous compounds, urea recycling, and mammary AA metabolism are also laborious, expensive (especially the methods that use isotopes), and results can be variable, especially the methods based on measurements of digesta or blood flow. Volatile loss of N from feces and particularly urine can be substantial during collection, processing, and analysis of excreta, compromising the accuracy of measurements of total-tract N digestion and body N balance. In studying ruminant N metabolism, nutritionists should consider the longer term fate of manure N as well. Various techniques used to determine the effects of animal nutrition on total N, ammonia- or nitrous oxide-emitting potentials, as well as plant fertilizer value, of manure are available. Overall, methods to study ruminant N metabolism have been developed over 150 yr of animal nutrition research, but many of them are laborious and impractical for application on a large number of animals. The increasing environmental concerns associated with livestock production systems necessitate more accurate and reliable methods to determine manure N emissions in the context of feed composition and ruminant N metabolism.
    • Iodine concentrations in milk

      O'Brien, Bernadette; Gleeson, David E; Jordan, Kieran; Irish Dairy Levy Research Trust (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2013)
      Iodine tends to be supplemented at farm level in the expectation of increasing cow health and fertility. There is concern that such practices may result in high milk iodine, which could affect ingredients for infant formula and, thus, dairy export markets. The objective of this study was to quantify the effect of iodine fortified feed and teat disinfection practices of dairy cows on milk iodine concentration. Thirty lactating cows were fed 7 kg, 3 kg (10 mg iodine/kg) and 0 kg of concentrate feed during 3 periods of 35 days each. During the first 14 days of each period, cows were on dietary iodine treatments only; during days 15–21, one of three teat disinfection treatments (n = 10) was applied (in addition to the dietary iodine treatments): non-iodine (chlorhexidine) post-milking spray; 0.5% iodine spray post-milking; 0.5% iodine spray pre- and post-milking. Cow milk yield was 21.3 kg/day. Individual cow milk samples were analysed for iodine concentration on 2 days at the end of each treatment period. Dietary supplementation of iodine at both 30 mg and 70 mg/day, when compared to the diet with no supplement, increased milk iodine concentrations significantly (P < 0.001) from 449 to 1034 and 915 μg/kg, respectively. Teat disinfection both pre- and post-milking increased milk iodine concentration at each of the dietary supplementation levels of 0, 30 and 70 mg/day compared with a non-iodine teat disinfectant (P < 0.001). In conclusion, both dietary iodine supplementation and teat disinfection iodine increased milk iodine concentrations in an additive manner, exceeding common target values of 250 μg/kg. As both iodine treatments can occur simultaneously on farm, supplementation strategies should be monitored.
    • Labour efficiency on-farm

      O'Brien, Bernadette; Gleeson, David E; O'Donovan, K.; Ruane, D.; Kinsella, J.; Mee, John F; Boyle, Laura; McNamara, John G. (Teagasc, 2007-01-01)
      Improvements in milking efficiency have a greater influence than any other aspect of the dairy farmers work on overall farm labour inputs (Whipp, 1992). In order to facilitate the examination of milking process labour inputs, the milking process may be divided into the following three components: herding pre and post milking (transfer of cows to and from the milking parlour); milking (milking tasks / work routines within the parlour); and washing (washing of milking machine and yard). Meanwhile, within milking specifically, the number of cows milked per operator per hour is the best measure of both the performance of the operator and the milking installation (Clough, 1978). This is affected by the following three factors: the milking times of the cows, the number and arrangement of the milking units, and the operator’s work routine (Whipp, 1992). The addition of extra milking units will only increase milking performance if the operator has idle time during milking (Hansen, 1999).
    • Land Drainage - A farmer’s practical guide to draining grassland in Ireland

      Tuohy, Patrick; Fenton, Owen; O'Loughlin, James; Humphreys, James (Teagasc, 30/07/2013)
      No drainage work should be carried out before the drainage characteristics of the soil are established by a site and soil test pit investigation. • Two types of drainage system exist: a groundwater drainage system and a shallow drainage system. The design of the system depends entirely on the drainage characteristics of the soil. • Distinguishing between the two types of drainage systems essentially comes down to whether or not a permeable layer is present (at a workable depth) that will allow the flow of water with relative ease. If such a layer is evident, a piped drain system at that depth is likely to be effective. If no such layer is found during soil test pit investigations, it will be necessary to improve the drainage capacity of the soil. This involves a disruption technique such as moling, gravel moling or subsoiling in tandem with collector drains. • Drains are not effective unless they are placed in a free draining soil layer or complimentary measures (mole drainage, subsoiling) are used to improve soil drainage capacity. If water is not moving through the soil in one or other of these two ways, the water table will not be lowered. • Outfall level must not dictate the drainage system depth. If a free draining layer is present, it must be utilised. • Drain pipes should always be used for drains longer than 30 m. If these get blocked it is a drainage stone and not a drainage pipe issue. • Drainage stone should not be filled to the top of the field trench except for very limited conditions (the bottom of an obvious hollow). Otherwise it is an extremely expensive way of collecting little water. • Most of the stone being used for land drainage today is too big. Clean aggregate in the 10–40 mm (0.4 to 1.5 inch approx) grading band should be used. Generally you get what you pay for. • Subsoiling is not effective unless a shallow impermeable layer is being broken or field drains have been installed prior to the operation. Otherwise it will not have any long-term effect and may do more harm than good. • Most land drainage systems are poorly maintained. Open drains should be clean and as deep as possible and field drains feeding into them should be regularly rodded or jetted.