Characteristics of robust animals for grass-based production systems
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CitationL. Delaby, F. Buckley and N. McHugh et al. Characteristics of robust animals for grass-based production systems. Irish Journal of Agricultural and Food Research. 2021, Vol. 59(2):246-257. DOI: 10.15212/ijafr-2020-0147
AbstractA characterisation of dairy, beef and sheep breeds and/or strains best suited to profitable/sustainable production within the context of European [semi] intensive pasture-based systems is presented. To deliver optimal performance, pasture must be managed effectively, but pasture-based systems are less energy intensive, are climate sensitive and induce challenges and constraints not normally posed to animals in intensive feeding environments. This emphasises the importance of animal traits associated with robustness and adaptive abilities. A survey of French dairy farmers concluded that a robust cow is an “invisible” cow with a long lifetime. The traits common to both indoor and grazing systems include: efficient converters of feed to human edible products, functionality, being healthy, reproductively fit and exhibiting longevity. Unique to successful grazing is the capability to achieve large intakes of forage to meet productive potential, an ability to adapt to fluctuating feed supply and, in seasonal systems, the ability to conceive and give birth at the appropriate time each year, usually within 365 d. The breed or strain of choice may differ based on local management constraints and objectives; however, general principles apply, and ideally should be guided by a suitable selection index combining all of the economically important traits appropriate to the local conditions and systems.
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