Recent Submissions

  • Effects of early spring N-fertilisation strategies on grass production and nitrogen recovery

    McNamara, K.A.; Casey, I.; Humphreys, James; European Union; Irish Dairy Levy (Teagasc, 2022-11-02)
    Application rate and application date of fertiliser nitrogen (N) are important factors determining grass production response and N recovery by grassland in spring. This study was conducted at two sites with different soil types (sandy loam and clay loam) in Ireland in spring 2005 and 2006. In comparison with a non-fertilised (zero-N) control, urea N was applied at rates of 60 and 90 kg N/ha either as single or split applications on eight dates ranging between 11 January and 14 March. Grass was harvested on four occasions between 21 February and 25 April. Split fertiliser N applications provided the best outcome in relation to grass DM production, apparent recovery of fertiliser N (ARFN) and cost of additional grass produced compared with single applications. Likewise, in this study the optimum date to commence fertiliser N application was 21 January combined with a second application on 26 February in terms of the cost-effectiveness of the fertiliser N input to increase grass DM production.
  • Lipid and protein oxidation and colour stability during display in high oxygen modified atmosphere packaging of beef from late-maturing bulls fed rumen protected fish oil

    Siphambili, S.; Moloney, Aidan; O'Riordan, Edward G.; McGee, Mark; Monahan, F.J.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 11/SF/322 (Teagasc, 2022-11-02)
    Increasing the concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in beef enhances its nutritional value but may compromise its oxidative shelf life. In this experiment, the impact of inclusion of rumen protected fish oil (PFO) in the finishing diet of late-maturing bulls on muscle fatty acid profile, antioxidant content, lipid stability, colour and protein oxidation was investigated. Charolais-sired suckler bulls were offered ad libitum, for 101 d pre-slaughter, a barley-based concentrate (C) or a concentrate containing rumen PFO. Following post-mortem ageing for 14 d, M. Longissimus thoracis muscle was subjected to simulated retail display (4°C, 1,000 lux for 12 h out of 24 h) for 3, 7 and 10 d in modified atmosphere packs (O2:CO2; 80:20). The concentrations of C22:6n-3, n-6 PUFA and total PUFA and the n-6:n-3 PUFA ratio were higher (P < 0.001) in muscle of PFO bulls compared to C bulls, while the α-tocopherol concentration was lower (P < 0.01). The concentrations of C18:3n-6, C20:4n-6, n-3 PUFA and highly peroxidisable PUFA were lower (P < 0.05) on day 14 compared to day 0 of display. Lipid oxidation after 10 d of display was higher (P < 0.05) in muscle of PFO bulls compared to C bulls but not to an extent that would be detected by a consumer. Colour stability was not affected. It is concluded that the increase in PUFA concentration achieved had minor effects on bull beef shelf life.
  • Field margin botanical diversity, composition and quality on intensively managed farming systems

    Larkin, Julie; Ó hUallacháin, Daire; Finn, John; Sheridan, Helen; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship Programme (Teagasc, 2022-11-02)
    Remaining semi-natural habitats are important refuges for farmland biodiversity, and field margins are one such habitat. Field margins consist of strips of herbaceous vegetation that are located between field boundary features such as hedgerows and the main grassland or arable field. However, little is known about their extent or ecological quality on intensively managed farmlands in Ireland. This lack of knowledge can only be addressed through the application of a standardised assessment methodology, which we developed and implemented in this study. A survey of field margins was conducted on 92 intensively managed farms, across three enterprise types (arable, beef and dairy farms) in Ireland. We describe the botanical composition and assess the ecological quality of field margins based on threshold levels of the percentage cover of positive, neutral and negative botanical indicator species that are predominantly informed by existing European Union (EU)-accepted methods for vegetation classification. Positive indicator species occurred in 77% of margins and had a mean cover of 10%. There was a high incidence of negative indicator species, occurring in 93% of margins with a mean cover of 55%. Using our quality appraisal system, 16% of field margins were of high or very high quality, and the majority (55%) were of low or very low quality. Compared to either arable or dairy farms, beef farms had a greater percentage of higher-quality margins, higher species richness and greater percentage of positive indicator species. Retaining areas of high-quality farmland habitat and enhancing those areas that have become ecologically degraded will be key to achieving the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) objective of protecting landscapes and biodiversity. However, the implementation of appropriate management decisions requires effective evaluation of the current ecological condition of these habitats. Field margins are ubiquitous habitats in Irish farmlands and comprise a significant proportion of overall farmland habitat area. However, our results show that the majority in more intensively managed systems are in a botanically impoverished condition. Our standardised field margin quality assessment technique may offer an appropriate method of tracking change in habitat quality in response to conservation actions to improve habitat quality.
  • Exploring adolescents’ perceptions of dairy farming careers in Ireland: views of students studying agricultural science in secondary school

    Beecher, Marion; Ryan, A.; Gorman, M. (Teagasc, 2022-06-24)
    A global challenge for dairy farmers is the attraction and retention of people to careers in primary agriculture. This study aimed to explore the perceptions of Irish secondary-level students studying agricultural science towards careers in dairy farming. Quantitative data were collected via a national survey (n = 976) prior to collection of qualitative data via two focus groups. Descriptive statistics including frequencies, percentages and means were used to analyse the quantitative data. Data analysis of the survey results identified general themes, which contributed to a deductive assessment of the overarching hypothesis, supplemented by inductive reasoning based on the analysis of the data from the focus groups. From the survey, adolescents perceived dairy farming as a physically demanding job with a poor work–life balance without any extra financial reward compared to other careers. In the focus groups, participants expressed concerns about environmental sustainability and economic viability. They also identified the ageing farming population as making it a less attractive career for young people. The paper supports arguments for greater integration of actual labour market opportunities into the secondary school curriculum to raise aspirations for 21st century careers in dairy farming, among other careers. There is an opportunity within the agricultural science curriculum to encourage students to explore the wide spectrum of emerging careers in food systems including dairy farming through classroom discussion, ideally with a variety of role models employed in the agricultural sector.
  • The distribution, type, popularity, size and availability of river-run gravel and crushed stone for use in land drainage systems and their suitability for mineral soils in Ireland

    Byrne, I.; Healy, M. G.; Fenton, Owen; Tuohy, P. (Teagasc, 2022-06-24)
    The performance of land drainage systems installed in mineral soils in Ireland is highly variable, and is dependent on, amongst other factors, the quality and suitability of the aggregate used. In Ireland, aggregate for land drainage systems is usually river-run gravel and crushed stone. This study classified the distribution, type, popularity, size and availability of aggregates for land drainage systems throughout Ireland and quantified their suitability for use in mineral soils. Eighty-six quarries were surveyed. Limestone and river-run gravel (80% of lithologies) are widespread throughout the country. The quarry aggregate sizes (“Q sizes”), reported by the quarries as either a single size, that is, “50 mm”, or a graded size, that is, 20–40 mm, were variable, changed across lithology and region and were, in most cases, larger than what is currently recommended. A particle size distribution analysis of 74 samples from 62 quarries showed that individual Q sizes increased in variability with increasing aggregate size. In some regions, the aggregate sold does not meet current national regulations, which specify an aggregate size ranging from 10 to 40 mm. The suitability of these aggregates for drainage in five soils of different textures was compared using three established design criteria. It was found that the aggregate in use is too large for heavy soil textures and is therefore unsuitable as drainage envelope material. Guidance for contractors, farmers and quarry owners will be required, and investment may be needed by quarries to produce aggregate that satisfies design criteria. An aggregate size, based on one or a combination of established aggregate design criteria, where an analysis of the soil texture is conducted and an appropriate aggregate is chosen based off its 15% passing size, is required.
  • 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.
  • An outline of achievements in selected areas of forest research in Ireland 1960–2021

    Farrelly, Niall; Nemesio Gorriz, Miguel; Short, Ian; Ní Dhubháin, Á.; Tobin, B.; O’Hanlon, R.; Earl, R.; McCullagh, A.; O’Donoghue, C.; Ryan, M. (Teagasc, 2022-03-01)
    In this paper, we provide an overview of achievements in forest research in Ireland carried out by various agencies over the past 60 yr. Many of the outcomes of the research have ensured that policy and practice are well-founded, and many of the research results form the basis of current forest standards and practice. Forest research has, and will continue to have, a significant role in national policy development and international reporting commitments. The achievement of future goals and targets is increasingly dependent on the maintenance of the goods and services that forests provide; these can be enhanced through the establishment of new forests and by appropriate management of the resource (e.g. The EU Green Deal and EU Forest Strategy). We outline the current state of knowledge which can be used to inform afforestation goals and the importance of tree improvement, forest management and forest protection to improve competitiveness and sustainability. Research into forestry and carbon provides a focus on the opportunities and challenges of climate change to Irish forestry. Future efforts will involve longer-term monitoring of environmental change commensurate with the forest rotation to reduce the uncertainties associated with climate change. Research into forestry economics, attitudinal surveys and behavioural studies may help inform the achievement of future policy goals. Reducing the impacts of biotic attack through efficient surveying, disease monitoring and assessing future risk is likely to be the focus of future research effort.
  • Impact of a total mixed ration or pasture/pasture silage-based feeding strategy in the initial stages of lactation of spring-calving dairy cows on milk production, composition and selected milk processability parameters

    McKay, Z.C.; Mulligan, F.J.; Brady, E.L.; O’Sullivan, M.; Rajauria, G.; Lynch, M.B.; O’Callaghan, T.F.; Pierce, K.M.; Enterprise Ireland Innovative Partnership; Department of Agriculture Food and Marine; et al. (Teagasc, 2022-02-28)
    The objective of this experiment was to investigate the effect of feeding strategy on milk production, composition and selected processability parameters in the initial stages of lactation. Twenty Holstein Friesian cows were allocated to one of two dietary treatments (n = 10; 7 multiparous and 3 primiparous) in a randomised complete block design for 21 d from day 10 to day 31 post-calving. Treatment 1 (pasture-based system [PBS]) was a pasture/pasture silage-based diet where cows were offered ad libitum grazed pasture or pasture silage (when weather did not permit grazing) plus 3 kg DM/d or 5 kg DM/d concentrate supplementation, respectively. On average, cows grazed pasture for 7.5 d and were fed pasture silage indoors for 13.5 d. Treatment 2 (TMR) was a total mixed ration (TMR) diet made up of concentrate, plus maize silage, pasture silage, beet pulp, soya bean meal and straw. Multiparous cows were blocked on calving date and balanced for parity and milk yield. Primiparous cows were balanced for live weight. Milk attributes pertinent to composition and functionality (e.g., fatty acids and rennet coagulation time [RCT]) were examined over a 21-d experimental period from day 10 to day 31 post-calving. Cows offered PBS tended to have a lower test day milk yield (PBS = 24.2 kg/cow vs. TMR = 26.8 kg/cow, P = 0.09) and a greater milk urea nitrogen (MUN) content compared to TMR (PBS = 0.030 g/100 g milk vs. TMR = 0.013 g/100 g milk, P < 0.001). Most notably, PBS-derived milks had a greater (P < 0.001) concentration of cis-9 trans-11 conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) compared to TMR. In conclusion, milk produced during early lactation from both feeding strategies was suitable for processing. Feeding a TMR compared with ad libitum pasture/pasture silage had no impact on average milk pH, casein concentration or RCT. Cows fed a pasture/pasture silage-based diet produced milk with a desirable RCT for milk processing, while the higher MUN content from cows offered PBS did not impact the processability of milk. Furthermore, milk from cows offered PBS had greater concentrations of cis-9 trans-11 CLA, which may offer human health benefits.
  • Current research and emerging tools to improve fresh red meat quality

    GAGAOUA, Mohammed; Duffy, Geraldine; Álvarez García, Carlos; Burgess, Catherine; Hamill, Ruth; Crofton, Emily C.; Botinestean, Cristina; Ferragina, A.; Cafferky, J.; Mullen, Anne Maria; et al. (Teagasc, 2022-03-01)
    A consumer’s decision to purchase red meat is guided by a combination of many interacting factors including safety, nutrition, sustainability and perception of healthiness along with a variety of sensory characteristics such as colour, marbling, tenderness, juiciness and flavour. Red meat quality is complex and influenced by many intrinsic and extrinsic factors, spanning the chain from breed/genetics through to the final end product with key influences coming from on-farm management and post-mortem processing. As a result of various factors, including consumer demands, the importance of both red meat quality and safety has in recent times come to the fore for the meat industry, with steps to meet these requirements having a large bearing on profitability. Therefore, a critical review of steps which can help control these traits is very important. Accordingly, several processing strategies were proposed at the research and industry level aiming to improve fresh red meat quality traits. This review summarises the current methods applied to improve fresh red meat quality and safety, including the advances in management and prediction tools for carcass and technological and sensory quality traits. These methods are also relevant to the safety and microbiological status of carcasses and meat produced, along with the recent developments in sensory analysis, which aim to understand the sensory properties of red meat and consumers responses. The potential of foodomics approaches is discussed under the topics of genomics, proteomics and metabolomics, which help our understanding of the underlying biological mechanisms behind the variation of sensory and technological quality traits and their use for the discovery of putative biomarkers. We further considered the current and emerging sequencing-based methods used to understand microbial community composition of fresh red meat.
  • 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.
  • Benchmarking a decade of holistic agro-environmental studies within the Agricultural Catchments Programme

    Mellander, Per-Erik; Lynch, M.B.; Galloway, J.; Žurovec, O.; McCormack, Michele; O’Neill, M.; Hawtree, D.; Burgess, E.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Teagasc, 2022-02-26)
    Meeting sustainable food production challenges requires efficient ways to manage nutrients and mitigate the losses of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) to water. Future nutrient management therefore requires a clearer understanding of the relative influence of soils, geology, farm practice, landscape and weather on the propensity for nutrients to be lost to water. Within the Agricultural Catchments Programme (ACP), environmental, agronomic and socioeconomic data have been gathered since 2009, using the same experimental methodology in five meso-scale river catchments, and one karst spring zone, covering a range of soils, landscapes and farming systems. The ACP has contributed to a better understanding of nutrient mobilisation and transfer pathways and highlighted the influence of the physical and chemical environment as well as agricultural and meteorological drivers on diffuse nutrient loss to ground and surface waters. The environmental quality standards were breached for N and/or P in some of the catchments, but for different reasons and not always clearly linked to the source pressures within the catchment. There are clearly no one-size-fits-all solutions for mitigation of nutrient losses to water. A better understanding of the underlying processes is required to identify critical source areas, to select mitigation strategies, when to implement them and to build realistic expectations of their impact. Sustainability in an agricultural setting is not confined to environmental issues, but also includes social, economic and innovative aspects. To maximise farmers’ uptake of environmental measures, the actions should encompass all these aspects of sustainability. Integrated knowledge transfer is key.
  • Animal welfare research – progress to date and future prospects

    Boyle, Laura A; Conneely, M.; Kennedy, Emer; O’Connell, N.; O'Driscoll, Keelin; Earley, Bernadette (Teagasc, 2022-02-26)
    RECORDABSTRACTARTICLE Animal welfare research – progress to date and future prospects OTHER Author(s): L. Boyle 1 , M. Conneely 1 , E. Kennedy 1 , N. O’Connell 2 , K. O’Driscoll 1 , B. Earley 3 , Publication date (Electronic): 26 February 2022 Journal: Irish Journal of Agricultural and Food Research Publisher: Compuscript Keywords: Animal welfare, beef, dairy, pig, poultry, welfare assessment Abstract The welfare status of an animal is dependent on its ability to cope and exist in harmony with its environment, such that good physical and psychological health is maintained. Improving animal welfare is an increasingly important aspect of livestock production systems due, in a large extent, to increased consumer concerns about animal production practices. Animal welfare is an integrated part of quality assurance programmes for sustainable animal production, considering that welfare, health, management, economy, consumer acceptance and environmental impact are interdependent. The major welfare concerns in the livestock industry in recent years relate to the rearing and management of dairy calves, the welfare of the dairy cow, effect of husbandry management procedures on the welfare of beef cattle, rearing of sows in gestation and farrowing crates, and the broiler (meat) chicken sector. The paper will focus on scientific research underpinning these welfare concerns, with a particular focus on research conducted on the island of Ireland.
  • 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.
  • Potatoes in Ireland: Sixty years of potato research and development, market evolution and perspectives on future challenges

    Griffin, Denis; Bourke, L.; Mullins, Ewen; Hennessy, M.; Phelan, S.; Kildea, Steven; Milbourne, Dan (Teagasc, 2022-02-25)
    Potato is often considered synonymous with Ireland, due to the great Irish famine in 1845, and remains the most important primary food crop in Ireland. Over the last 60 yr, the area of potatoes has reduced from 86,000 ha to 9,000 ha. This trend has occurred in most developed countries but in Ireland it is due to decreasing consumption, increasing yield, decline in seed production and potatoes no longer being use for animal feed. Significant specialisation occurred in the industry during the 1990s, with improvements in agronomy, on farm investment in storage and field equipment, consolidation of packing facilities, and a significant shift in cultivar choice, with Rooster becoming the dominant cultivar. These developments led to an increase in yield from 20 t/ha in the mid-1980s to over 40 t/ha today. Potato research in Ireland has focused on breeding, pathology and agronomy, while there have been significant changes in how knowledge is communicated to growers and the industry in this period. The industry faces many challenges in the future, largely framed by climate change, the need to reduce fertiliser and plant protection products as part of the EU Farm to Fork Strategy and industry size constraints. New superior potato varieties and novel breeding techniques will have potential to help address many challenges in combination with integrated pest management principles. Multi-actor approaches will be necessary to address all challenges but particularly to aid the industry grow and exploit emerging opportunities.
  • An overview of Irish pig production, research and knowledge transfer since 1960

    Boyle, Laura A.; Carroll, C.; Clarke, L.; Garcia Manzanilla, Edgar; Gardiner, G.E.; McCutcheon, G.; McCrum, E.; McKeon, M.; Lawlor, Peadar; Lynch, B.; et al. (Teagasc, 2022-02-09)
    Pig production in Ireland has gone through enormous changes during the past 60 yr, from pigs being primarily produced as a sideline on dairy farms, to an industry with one of the highest average herd sizes in Europe. This happened in part due to external pressure on the industry, whereby economies of scale were needed to compete with pigs produced in other countries, but largely due to the instigation of national programmes to support the pig industry through research, education and knowledge transfer. These efforts helped producers to take advantage of genetic improvements and monitor their own performance over time, as well as allowing for benchmarking of the national herd against other countries. The research programme initiated in the 1960s continues to grow and expand, providing the pig industry with internationally renowned data and knowledge in the areas of nutrition, animal welfare, the environment and energy use. Recent initiatives such as the establishment of the Teagasc and Irish Farmers Association Pig Joint Programme, and a Pig Health Check section in Animal Health Ireland, will help to promote further cross-collaboration between stakeholders in the pig industry, and enable it to rise to the challenges of the years ahead.
  • Irish Grassland Research — main achievements and advancements in the past 60 yrs and where to progress to next

    O’Donovan, Michael; Dillon, P.; Conaghan, Patrick; Hennessy, Deirdre (Teagasc, 2022-02-09)
    In the last 60 yr Irish grassland production has increased substantially in no small part due to high-quality fundamental grassland research. Increased production from grassland has arisen from improved understanding (research and practice) of soil and plant nutrition, plant physiology and variety improvement, while improved understanding of feed evaluation, ruminant nutrition, grazing management and silage technology has contributed to increased utilisation of grassland. Annual grass DM production varies from 12.7 to 15.0 t DM/ha based on Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine grass variety trials. More recent data from PastureBase Ireland indicate that average annual grass production (2020) on efficient dairy and dry stock farms is 13.5 and 10.0 t DM/ha, respectively. Ireland is now one of the world leaders in grassland research, particularly in the area of grazing utilisation, the development and use of grassland databases, decision support systems and grass selection indices for grass varieties. Future pasture-based systems must extend beyond food production to deliver additional benefits to farmers, to consumers and the wider society. Future systems will require more robust grazing animals with healthier functional traits, more diverse swards supporting improved animal performance and require fewer fertiliser and chemical inputs, and will support more biodiversity and enhanced carbon storage.