The aim of the Teagasc Animal and Grassland Research & Innovation Programme is to increase the profitability, competitiveness and sustainability of Irish livestock production through research and innovation.

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  • Association between the prion protein genotype and animal performance traits in a large multibreed sheep population

    McHugh, Noirin; O'Brien, A.C.; Pabiou, T.; McDermott, K.; Berry, Donagh; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 14/S/849 (Elsevier, 2022-07-31)
    Genetic susceptibility to scrapie, a fatal disease of sheep and goats, is modulated by polymorphisms in the prion protein (PrP). Neither the frequency of the PrP genotypes nor their association with animal performance has been investigated in a large multibreed Irish sheep population. Scrapie genotypes were available on 16 416 animals; the breeds represented included purebred Belclare (733), Charollais (333), Suffolk (739), Texel (1 857), Vendeen (191), and crossbreds (12 563). Performance data on lambing, lamb and ewe performance as well as health traits were available. The association between alternative approaches of describing the PrP genotype (i.e. 15 individually called PrP genotypes, five genotype classes representing susceptibility to scrapie, or number of ARR haplotypes) and animal performance were quantified using animal linear mixed models. All 15 of the possible scrapie genotypes were detected, although the frequency differed by breed. The frequency of the five PrP haplotypes in the entire population were 0.70 (ARR), 0.15 (ARQ), 0.11 (ARH), 0.02 (AHQ) and 0.01 (VRQ); the most susceptible haplotype (VRQ) was only detected in purebred Texels and crossbreds. No association was detected between the PrP genotype of either the animal or dam and any of the lambing traits (i.e. lambing difficulty score, perinatal mortality and birth weight). With the exception of ultrasound muscle depth, no association between the PrP genotype and any of the lamb performance traits (i.e. lamb BW and carcass) was observed. Lambs carrying the category four PrP genotype (i.e. ARR/VRQ) had 1.20 (SE = 0.45) mm, 1.38 (SE = 0.12) mm, 1.47 (S = 0.25) mm shallower ultrasound muscle depth relative to lambs of the less susceptible scrapie categories of 1, 2, 3, respectively (P < 0.05). Nonetheless, no association between PrP genotype and lamb carcass conformation, the ultimate end goal of producers, was detected. Ewe litter size, body condition score or lameness did not differ by PrP genotype of the ewe (P > 0.05). For ewe mature BW, ARH/VRQ ewes differed from most other ewe PrP genotypes and were, on average, 3.79 (SE = 1.66) kg heavier than ARR/ARR genotype ewes. Lamb dag score differed by dam PrP genotype (P < 0.05), although the differences were small. Results from this study show that scrapie is segregating within the Irish sheep population, but the PrP genotype was not associated with most traits investigated and, where associations were detected, the biological significance was minimal. This suggests minimal impact of selection on PrP genotype on performance, at least for the traits investigated in the present study.
  • A novel hybrid coagulation-constructed wetland system for the treatment of dairy wastewater

    Mohamed, A.Y.A.; Siggins, A.; Healy, M.G.; Ó hUallacháin, Daire; Fenton, Owen; Tuohy, P.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship; RMIS-0386 (Elsevier, 2022-07-29)
    Constructed wetlands (CWs) are a cost-effective and sustainable treatment technology that may be used on farms to treat dairy wastewater (DWW). However, CWs require a large area for optimal treatment and have poor long-term phosphorus removal. To overcome these limitations, this study uses a novel, pilot-scale coagulation-sedimentation process prior to loading CWs with DWW. This hybrid system, which was operated on an Irish farm over an entire milking season, performed well at higher hydraulic loading rates than conventional CWs, and obtained removal efficiencies ≥99 % for all measured water quality parameters (chemical oxygen demand, total nitrogen and phosphorus, total suspended solids and turbidity), which complied with EU directives concerning urban wastewater treatment. Overall, the hybrid coagulation-CW is a promising technology that requires a smaller area than conventional CWs and minimal operator input, and produces high effluent quality.
  • An evaluation of four private animal health and welfare standards and associated quality assurance programmes for dairy cow production

    More, S.J.; Marchewka, J.; Hanlon, A.; Balzani, A.; Boyle, Laura Ann; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; RSF 17/S/230 (Elsevier, 2021-12-31)
    Private standards in animal health and welfare (AHW) and associated quality assurance (QA) programmes are an important instrument for food policy with the potential to substantially improve AHW. However, there are concerns that they do not necessarily do so. In this study, we evaluated four private AHW standards and associated QA programmes for dairy cow production, from Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, using an existing (but adapted) conceptual framework. The framework considers criteria relating to programme goals including relevance to AHW, programme beneficiaries, effectiveness, efficiency and transparency. The current study focused on information that was publicly available online. We found limited objective information to support programme claims, although there were considerable differences between programmes. Across all programmes, problems were identified with respect to transparency, and attempts to scrutinise claims would not be a straightforward process for most consumers. Among the programmes, there were notable examples of best-practice in AHW, relating to science-based evidence, separation of risk assessment and risk management, animal-based measures, farm benchmarking, ongoing programme-level metrics and measurement, and ongoing programme review. There is a need for careful scrutiny of private standards and QA programmes, to provide consumers with assurance with respect to programme effectiveness and transparency. Further, it is important that programme efficiencies are maximised. There is a strong case for regulatory oversight of private standards in AHW and associated QA programmes. This could be within existing or defined policy instruments, both to facilitate the positive impact of these programmes and to build confidence among consumers of the validity of programme claims.
  • Application of machine-learning methods to milk mid-infrared spectra for discrimination of cow milk from pasture or total mixed ration diets

    Frizzarin, Maria; O'Callaghan, Tom; Murphy, T.B.; Hennessey, Deirdre; Casa, A.; Science Foundation Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 16/RC/3835; 18/SIRG/5562 (Elsevier, 2021-12-31)
    The prevalence of “grass-fed” labeled food products on the market has increased in recent years, often commanding a premium price. To date, the majority of methods used for the authentication of grass-fed source products are driven by auditing and inspection of farm records. As such, the ability to verify grass-fed source claims to ensure consumer confidence will be important in the future. Mid-infrared (MIR) spectroscopy is widely used in the dairy industry as a rapid method for the routine monitoring of individual herd milk composition and quality. Further harnessing the data from individual spectra offers a promising and readily implementable strategy to authenticate the milk source at both farm and processor levels. Herein, a comprehensive comparison of the robustness, specificity, and accuracy of 11 machine-learning statistical analysis methods were tested for the discrimination of grass-fed versus non-grass-fed milks based on the MIR spectra of 4,320 milk samples collected from cows on pasture or indoor total mixed ration–based feeding systems over a 3-yr period. Linear discriminant analysis and partial least squares discriminant analysis (PLS-DA) were demonstrated to offer the greatest level of accuracy for the prediction of cow diet from MIR spectra. Parsimonious strategies for the selection of the most discriminating wavelengths within the spectra are also highlighted.
  • A survey of biosecurity and health management practices on Irish dairy farms engaged in contract-rearing

    McCarthy, M.C.; O'Grady, L.; McAloon, C.G.; Mee, John F.; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship (Elsevier, 2021-12-31)
    A survey was conducted to investigate potential differences in biosecurity and health management practices on Irish dairy farms that sent their heifers for contract-rearing (source dairy farms, SDF; n = 62) and those rearing their own heifers (control farms, CF; n = 50). Participating farmers were surveyed by postal questionnaire between September and November 2018. The overall response rate was 93%. Results show that structurally, SDF were larger, less fragmented, and more specialized than CF. Outsourcing of labor-intensive activities to external contractors was more common among SDF than CF, exposing them to potentially increased biosecurity risks associated with animal movements, use of shared equipment, and increased frequency of farm visitors. The majority of SDF sent heifers to a single-origin rearing facility (70%), with heifers most commonly arriving at the rearing unit between 2 and 4 mo (53%) and returning to the dairy farm between 18 and 21 mo of age (56%). Despite the increased biosecurity risk associated with contract-rearing, implementation of disease prevention measures was not superior on SDF compared with CF. For both farm types, there was scope for improvement to visitor biosecurity protocols, quarantine procedures, colostrum feeding practices, and hygiene of calving areas. This research provides an overview of the demographics and farm management practices implemented by dairy farmers engaged in contract-rearing of replacement heifers, and will serve to inform farmers, veterinary advisors, and policy makers.
  • The effect of natural and induced calving of beef heifers on stress-related gene expression and maternal health and immunity

    Beltman, M.E.; Lewis, J.; McCabe, M.; Keogh, Kate; Kenny, David A.; UCD Seed Funding Scheme; SF827 (Elsevier, 2022-06-30)
    The peri-partum processes can exert stress on a cow on many levels. There is little evidence about acute stress around the calving event and subsequent potential effects for the cows’ immunological status or subsequent reproductive health. To investigate this, 55 crossbred recipient beef heifers carrying purebred Simmental embryos were assigned to one of three groups on day 285 of gestation: (i) control (no parturition induction treatment; n = 19); (ii) induction of parturition with corticosteroid (n = 20) and (iii) induction of parturition with corticosteroid plus prostaglandin (n = 16). Interval from induction of parturition to calving and calving ease was recorded. Reproductive tract examinations were conducted on Day 21 (D21) and Day 42, and a sample was obtained for the determination of uterine cytology on D21. Blood samples were taken from the dams two weeks before parturition, one day after parturition (D1) and two weeks after parturition (D14) for gene expression and cortisol and calcium concentration determination. Calves were weighed at birth and subsequently every week until they were 10 weeks of age. A colostrum sample was taken immediately after calving and stored for subsequent Immunoglobin G (IgG) concentration analysis. Data were analysed using ANOVA with posthoc Tukey, Spearman correlation and stepwise backwards linear regression using SAS. Quantitative reverse transcription PCR was performed on the following immune genes: Interleukins IL1a and b, IL2, IL4, IL8, Tumour Necrosis Factor Alpha, Interferon-gamma, Lymphotoxin, Toll-Like Receptor, Nuclear factor of kappa light polypeptide gene enhancer in B cells 1 and 2, glucocorticoid receptor alpha, as well as the neutrophil genes that regulate inflammation: Fas, L-selectin, MMP-9 and BPI. The results show that compared with non-induced contemporaries, induction has no negative effect on dystocia or subsequent calf weight gain but can have a positive effect on colostral IgG concentration. Blood calcium concentrations on both D1 and D14 postcalving are associated with subsequent uterine health. Parturition events were reflected in temporal changes in the expression of the cytokines IFNγ, TNFα, IL1b, IL4, IL8 and Haptoglobin in the dams’ blood, all of which are associated with the immune competence of the cow during this period. The conclusion is that induction of calving can have a positive effect on colostral IgG concentration. Calcium concentrations postcalving are associated with subsequent reproductive tract health. Events associated with the peri- and postpartum period are all reflected in temporal changes in immune function-related cytokines.
  • Internal teat sealants alone or in combination with antibiotics at dry-off – the effect on udder health in dairy cows in five commercial herds

    Clabby, C.; McParland, Sinead; Dillon, Pat; Arkins, S.; Flynn, J.; Murphy, J.; Silva Boloña, P.; Dairy Research Ireland; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship (Elsevier, 2022)
    In the dairy industry, the dry period has been identified as an area for potential reduction in antibiotic use, as part of a one health approach to preserve antibiotic medicines for human health. The objective of this study was to assess the impact of dry cow treatment on somatic cell count (SCC), intramammary infection (IMI) and milk yield on five commercial Irish dairy herds. A total of 842 cows across five spring calving dairy herds with a monthly bulk tank SCC of < 200 000 cells/mL were recruited for this study. At dry-off, cows which had not exceeded 200 000 cells/mL in the previous lactation were assigned one of two dry-off treatments: internal teat seal (ITS) alone (Lo_TS) or antibiotic plus ITS (Lo_AB + TS). Cows which exceeded 200 000 cells/mL in the previous lactation were treated with antibiotic plus ITS and included in the analysis as a separate group (Hi_AB + TS). Test-day SCC and lactation milk yield records were provided by the herd owners. Quarter milk samples were collected at dry-off, after calving and at mid-lactation for bacteriological culture and quarter SCC analysis. Cow level SCC was available for 789 cows and was log-transformed for the purpose of analysis. Overall, the log SCC of the cows in the Lo_TS group was significantly higher than the cows in Lo_AB + TS group and not statistically different to the cows in the Hi_AB + TS group in the subsequent lactation. However, the response to treatment differed according to the herd studied; the log SCC of the cows in the Lo_TS group in Herds 3, 4 and 5 was not statistically different to the cows in Lo_AB + TS group, whereas in the other two herds, the log SCC was significantly higher in the Lo_TS when compared to the Lo_AB + TS group. There was a significant interaction between dry-off group and herds on SCC and odds of infection in the subsequent lactation. The results of this study suggest that the herd prevalence of IMI may be useful in decision-making regarding the treatment of cows with ITS alone at dry-off to mitigate its impact on udder health.
  • Modelling the production, profit, and greenhouse gas emissions of Irish sheep flocks divergent in genetic merit

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

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

    Browne, N.; Hudson, C.D.; Crossley, R.E.; Sugrue, K; Kennedy, E.; Huxley, J.N.; Conneely, Muireann; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship (Elsevier, 2021-10-02)
    Lameness in dairy cows is a major animal welfare concern and has substantial economic impact through reduced production and fertility. Previous risk factor analyses have focused on housed systems, rather than those where cows were grazed for the majority of the year and housed only for the winter period. Therefore, the aim of this observational study was to identify a robust set of cow-level and herd-level risk factors for lameness in a pasture-based system, based on predictors from the housing and grazing periods. Ninety-nine farms were visited during the grazing period (April 2019–September 2019), and 85 farms were revisited during the housing period (October 2019–February 2020). At each visit, all lactating cows were scored for lameness (0 = good mobility, 1 = imperfect mobility, 2 = impaired mobility, 3 = severely impaired mobility), and potential herd-level risk factors were recorded through questionnaires and infrastructure measurements. Routine cow-level management data were also collected. Important risk factors for lameness were derived though triangulation of results from elastic net regression, and from logistic regression model selection using modified Bayesian information criterion. Both selection methods were implemented using bootstrapping. This novel approach has not previously been used in a cow-level or herd-level risk factor analysis in dairy cows, to the authors' knowledge. The binary outcome variable was lameness status, whereby cows with a lameness score of 0 or 1 were classed as non-lame and cows with a score of 2 or 3 were classed as lame. Cow-level risk factors for increased lameness prevalence were age and genetic predicted transmitting ability for lameness. Herd-level risk factors included farm and herd size, stones in paddock gateways, slats on cow tracks near the collecting yard, a sharper turn at the parlor exit, presence of digital dermatitis on the farm, and the farmers' perception of whether lameness was a problem on the farm. This large-scale study identified the most important associations between risk factors and lameness, based on the entire year (grazing and housing periods), providing a focus for future randomized clinical trials.
  • Effect of feeding single-dam or pooled colostrum on maternally derived immunity in dairy calves

    Barry, J.; Bokkers, E.A.M.; Sayers, Riona; Murphy, J.P.; de Boer, I.J.M.; Kennedy, E.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship (Elsevier, 2021-08-26)
    The role of colostrum management in providing adequate immunological protection to neonatal calves has been widely investigated, and thresholds for colostrum quality, as well as optimum volume and timing for colostrum feeding have been established. However, limited information is available on the effect of colostrum source (single dam or pooled) on passive immunity, as well as subsequent antibody survival in the calf. This study aimed to assess the effect of feeding single-dam colostrum (own and other dam) or pooled colostrum on transfer of passive immunity, and also investigate the rate of depletion of disease-specific antibodies among dairy calves. In total, 320 cows and 119 dairy heifer calves were enrolled in the study. Calves were blood-sampled immediately after birth and received either own-dam, other-dam, or pooled colostrum. Calves were blood-sampled at 24 h to assess serum IgG concentrations and at monthly intervals thereafter to document disease-specific antibody survival. Mean colostrum IgG concentration was higher for other-dam treatment group, whereas own-dam and pooled treatments were similar. For all treatment groups, the mean IgG concentration was >80 mg/mL, exceeding the quality threshold of 50 mg/mL. Mean calf serum IgG concentration was lower for calves fed pooled colostrum compared with those that received colostrum from a single cow. There was a negative association with 24-h serum IgG and calf birth bodyweight; calves <30 kg at birth had the highest 24-h serum IgG concentration. Survival of antibodies to bovine viral diarrhea, Salmonella infection, leptospirosis, bovine parainfluenza 3 virus, bovine respiratory syncytical virus, rotavirus, and coronavirus was not associated with colostrum source; however, antibodies to infectious bovine rhinotracheitis had a greater period of survival among calves fed own-dam colostrum. We found that feeding single-dam colostrum can thus improve calf immunity through increased serum IgG levels and antibody survival rates. Furthermore, we hypothesize that immune exclusion may occur with pooled colostrum; therefore, providing pooled colostrum may still be a good practice as long as it can be ensured that enough antibodies are absorbed into the blood stream to deal with pathogens calves may encounter because different dams may have antibodies against different strains of viruses and bacteria, yielding cross protection.
  • Identification of functional candidate variants and genes for feed efficiency in Holstein and Jersey cattle breeds using RNA-sequencing

    Lam, S.; Miglior, F.; Fonseca, P.A.S.; Gómez-Redondo, I.; Zeidan, J.; Suárez-Vega, A.; Schenkel, F.; Guan, L.L.; Waters, Sinéad M; Stothard, P.; et al. (Elsevier, 2021-02-28)
    The identification of functional genetic variants and associated candidate genes linked to feed efficiency may help improve selection for feed efficiency in dairy cattle, providing economic and environmental benefits for the dairy industry. This study used RNA-sequencing data obtained from liver tissue from 9 Holstein cows [n = 5 low residual feed intake (RFI), n = 4 high RFI] and 10 Jersey cows (n = 5 low RFI, n = 5 high RFI), which were selected from a single population of 200 animals. Using RNA-sequencing, 3 analyses were performed to identify: (1) variants within low or high RFI Holstein cattle; (2) variants within low or high RFI Jersey cattle; and (3) variants within low or high RFI groups, which are common across both Holstein and Jersey cattle breeds. From each analysis, all variants were filtered for moderate, modifier, or high functional effect, and co-localized quantitative trait loci (QTL) classes, enriched biological processes, and co-localized genes related to these variants, were identified. The overlapping of the resulting genes co-localized with functional SNP from each analysis in both breeds for low or high RFI groups were compared. For the first two analyses, the total number of candidate genes associated with moderate, modifier, or high functional effect variants fixed within low or high RFI groups were 2,810 and 3,390 for Holstein and Jersey breeds, respectively. The major QTL classes co-localized with these variants included milk and reproduction QTL for the Holstein breed, and milk, production, and reproduction QTL for the Jersey breed. For the third analysis, the common variants across both Holstein and Jersey breeds, uniquely fixed within low or high RFI groups were identified, revealing a total of 86,209 and 111,126 functional variants in low and high RFI groups, respectively. Across all 3 analyses for low and high RFI cattle, 12 and 31 co-localized genes were overlapping, respectively. Among the overlapping genes across breeds, 9 were commonly detected in both the low and high RFI groups (INSRR, CSK, DYNC1H1, GAB1, KAT2B, RXRA, SHC1, TRRAP, PIK3CB), which are known to play a key role in the regulation of biological processes that have high metabolic demand and are related to cell growth and regeneration, metabolism, and immune function. The genes identified and their associated functional variants may serve as candidate genetic markers and can be implemented into breeding programs to help improve the selection for feed efficiency in dairy cattle.
  • Formulation of a decision support tool incorporating both genetic and non-genetic effects to rank young growing cattle on expected market value

    Dunne, F. L.; Evans, R. D.; Kelleher, M.M.; Walsh, S. W.; Berry, Donagh; Science Foundation Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine; European Union; 16/RC/3835; 679GenTORE (727213) (Elsevier, 2021-02-28)
    While breeding indexes exist globally to identify candidate parents of the next generation, fewer tools exist that provide guidance on the expected monetary value of young animals. The objective of the present study was therefore to develop the framework for a cattle decision-support tool which incorporates both the genetic and non-genetic information of an animal and, in doing so, better predict the potential market value of an animal, whatever the age. Two novel monetary indexes were constructed and their predictive ability of carcass value was compared to that of the Irish national Terminal breeding index, typical of other terminal indexes used globally. A constructed Harvest index was composed of three carcass-related traits [i.e., 1) carcass weight, 2) carcass conformation and 3) carcass fat, each weighted by their respective economic value] and aimed at purchasers of animals close to harvest; the second index, termed the Calf index, also included docility and feed intake (weighted by their respective economic value), thus targeting purchasers of younger calves for growing (and eventually harvesting). Genetic and non-genetic fixed and random effect model solutions from the Irish national genetic evaluations underpinned all indexes. The two novel indexes were formulated using three alternative estimates of an animal's total merit for comparative purposes: 1) an index based solely on the animal's breed solutions, 2) an index which also included within-breed animal differences, and 3) an index which, as well as considering additive and non-additive genetic effects, also included non-genetic effects (referred to as production values [PVs]). As more information (i.e., within breed effects and subsequently non-genetic effects) was included in the total merit estimate, the correlations strengthened between the two proposed indexes and the animal's calculated carcass market value; the correlation coefficients almost doubled in strength when total merit was based on PV-based estimates as compared to the breed solutions alone. Including phenotypic live-weight data, collected during the animal's life, strengthened the predictive ability of the indexes further. Based on the results presented, the proposed indexes may fill the void in decision support when purchasing or selling cattle. In addition, given the dynamic nature of indexes, they have the potential to be updated in real-time as information becomes available.
  • Milk production per cow and per hectare of spring-calving dairy cows grazing swards differing in Lolium perenne L. ploidy and Trifolium repens L. composition

    Gilliland, T.J.; Delaby, L.; Guy, C.; Dineen, M.; Coughlan, F.; McCarthy, B.; Irish Dairy Levy; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship Programme (Elsevier, 2019-09-30)
    Grazed grass is the cheapest feed available for dairy cows in temperate regions; thus, to maximize profits, dairy farmers must optimize the use of this high-quality feed. Previous research has defined the benefits of including white clover (Trifolium repens L.) in grass swards for milk production, usually at reduced nitrogen usage and stocking rate. The aim of this study was to quantify the responses in milk production of dairy cows grazing tetraploid or diploid perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.; PRG) sown with and without white clover but without reducing stocking rate or nitrogen usage. We compared 4 grazing treatments in this study: tetraploid PRG-only swards, diploid PRG-only swards, tetraploid with white clover swards, and diploid with white clover swards. Thirty cows were assigned to each treatment, and swards were rotationally grazed at a farm-level stocking rate of 2.75 cows/ha and a nitrogen fertilizer rate of 250 kg/ha annually. Sward white clover content was 23.6 and 22.6% for tetraploid with white clover swards and diploid with white clover swards, respectively. Milk production did not differ between the 2 ploidies during this 4-yr study, but cows grazing the PRG-white clover treatments had significantly greater milk yields (+596 kg/cow per year) and milk solid yields (+48 kg/cow per year) compared with cows grazing the PRG-only treatments. The PRG-white clover swards also produced 1,205 kg of DM/ha per year more herbage, which was available for conserving and buffer feeding in spring when these swards were less productive than PRG-only swards. Although white clover is generally combined with reduced nitrogen fertilizer use, this study provides evidence that including white clover in either tetraploid or diploid PRG swards, combined with high levels of nitrogen fertilizer, can effectively increase milk production per cow and per hectare.
  • Effect of teatcup removal settings on milking efficiency and milk quality in a pasture-based automatic milking system

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

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

    Camp Montoro, Jordi; Solà-Oriol, David; Muns, Ramon; Gasa, Josep; Llanes, Núria; Manzanilla, Edgar G.; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship Scheme; 0415 (Biomed Central, 2022-07-04)
    Background Diet evaluation and optimization is a slow and expensive process and it is not possible to do it at a farm level. This study aimed to use the blood serum metabolite (BSM) and faecal volatile fatty acid (VFA) profiles as potential biomarkers to identify changes in protein, amino acid and energy dietary content in growing and finishing pig diets at farm level. Results Two studies were conducted. The first study (S1) included 20 pens of 11 pigs (87.0 ± 4.10 kg; 18 weeks old) assigned to 5 diets: control (C1), high or low crude protein (HP1 and LP1, respectively), and high or low net energy (HE1 and LE1, respectively). The second study (S2) included 28 pens of 11 pigs (41.3 ± 2.60 kg; 12 weeks old) assigned to 7 diets: control (C2), high or low crude protein (HP2 and LP2, respectively), high or low amino acid (HA2 and LA2, respectively), and high or low net energy (HE2 and LE2, respectively). Pigs were followed for 10 (S1) and 20 (S2) days, and blood and faecal samples were collected at 20 (S1) and 14 (S2) weeks of age. Data were analysed using general linear models and receiver operating characteristic curve analysis. Urea nitrogen showed the best results as a biomarker. Urea nitrogen was higher in pigs fed high protein diets, HP1 (13.6 ± 0.95 mg/dL) and HP2 (11.6 ± 0.61), compared to those fed low protein diets, LP1 (6.0 ± 0.95) and LP2 (5.2 ± 0.61; P < 0.001), showing good discrimination ability (Area under the curve (AUC) = 98.4 and 100%, respectively). These differences were not observed between diets LA2 (6.5 ± 0.61) and HA2 (8.7 ± 0.61; P > 0.05; AUC = 71.9%), which were formulated based on the ideal protein profile but with no excess of protein. Creatinine, triglycerides, branched-chain fatty acids, albumin, propionic acid, and cholesterol showed differences between at least 2 diets but only in one of the studies. Conclusions Urea nitrogen showed high accuracy to detect excess of crude protein in growing and finishing pig diets. Other biomarkers like BCFA showed promising results and need to be further studied.
  • An index framework founded on the future profit potential of female beef cattle to aid the identification of candidates for culling

    Dunne, Fíona L; Berry, Donagh; Kelleher, Margaret M; Evans, Ross D; Walsh, Siobhan W; Amer, Peter R; Science Foundation Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; European Union; 16/RC/3835; et al. (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2020-10-13)
    Meticulous culling decisions, coupled with careful breeding decisions, are fundamental to shifting a population distribution in the favorable direction and improving profit per cow. Nevertheless, there is a paucity of easy-to-use dynamic tools to aid in culling decisions in beef cattle. The motivation for the present study was to develop a monetary-based culling tool, here referred to as the Beef Female’s Profit Potential (BFPP), to identify females for culling. The BFPP reflects the expected lifetime profitability of an individual female in a herd for the expected remainder of her lifetime; this profit included that of the beef female herself as well as her progeny. The BFPP index framework was composed of 4 subindexes reflecting the value of an animal: (1) as a nulliparae (this was voided if the cow had already calved), (2) for the remainder of her current parity, (3) summed across each of her expected remaining parities, and (4) when she is retained within the herd and not voluntarily culled. Each subindex was comprised of different components reflecting both genetic and non-genetic effects associated with each female. Transition matrices predicting the expected longevity of each female and their expected month of calving were also utilized in calculating the expected remaining lifetime profitability of each female. The BFPP index was validated on 21,102 beef cows as well as their harvested progeny from 875 herds by stratifying the cows, within herd, into 4 strata based on their BFPP. The mean of the within-herd correlation between the BFPP and the Irish national replacement (i.e., breeding) index was, on average, 0.45 indicating the shortcomings of the breeding index as a culling tool. Cows within the top BFPP stratum had a genetic expectation of accruing almost an additional €36 profit per calving, relative to cows within the worst stratum; when validated on the cow’s own calving interval and survival performance as well as their progeny’s carcass performance, the actual phenotypic value was estimated to be an additional €32 profit per calving. A proportion of this additional profit was due to the harvested progeny of the high BFPP cows having, on average, heavier, more conformed carcasses with less fat cover relative to their poor BFPP contemporaries. This BFPP framework is a useful and easy-to-use tool to aid in producer decision making on the choice of females to voluntarily cull but also on which replacement heifers to graduate into the mature herd.
  • Formulation of a decision support tool incorporating both genetic and non-genetic effects to rank young growing cattle on expected market value

    Dunne, F.L.; Evans, R.D.; Kelleher, M.M.; Walsh, S.W.; Berry, Donagh; Science Foundation Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine; European Union; 16/RC/3835; MultiRepro; et al. (Elsevier BV, 2021-02)
    While breeding indexes exist globally to identify candidate parents of the next generation, fewer tools exist that provide guidance on the expected monetary value of young animals. The objective of the present study was therefore to develop the framework for a cattle decision-support tool which incorporates both the genetic and non-genetic information of an animal and, in doing so, better predict the potential market value of an animal, whatever the age. Two novel monetary indexes were constructed and their predictive ability of carcass value was compared to that of the Irish national Terminal breeding index, typical of other terminal indexes used globally. A constructed Harvest index was composed of three carcass-related traits [i.e., 1) carcass weight, 2) carcass conformation and 3) carcass fat, each weighted by their respective economic value] and aimed at purchasers of animals close to harvest; the second index, termed the Calf index, also included docility and feed intake (weighted by their respective economic value), thus targeting purchasers of younger calves for growing (and eventually harvesting). Genetic and non-genetic fixed and random effect model solutions fromthe Irish national genetic evaluations underpinned all indexes. The two novel indexes were formulated using three alternative estimates of an animal's total merit for comparative purposes: 1) an index based solely on the animal's breed solutions, 2) an index which also included within-breed animal differences, and 3) an index which, as well as considering additive and non-additive genetic effects, also included non-genetic effects (referred to as production values [PVs]). As more information (i.e., within breed effects and subsequently non-genetic effects) was included in the total merit estimate, the correlations strengthened between the two proposed indexes and the animal's calculated carcass market value; the correlation coefficients almost doubled in strength when total merit was based on PV-based estimates as compared to the breed solutions alone. Including phenotypic liveweight data, collected during the animal's life, strengthened the predictive ability of the indexes further. Based on the results presented, the proposed indexes may fill the void in decision support when purchasing or selling cattle. In addition, given the dynamic nature of indexes, they have the potential to be updated in real-time as information becomes available.
  • Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis infection in cattle – a review in the context of seasonal pasture-based dairy herds

    Field, Niamh L.; McAloon, Conor G.; Gavey, Lawrence; Mee, John F; Teagasc (Biomed Central, 2022-05-20)
    Johne’s disease is an infectious disease affecting cattle, other ruminants and non-ruminant wildlife worldwide, caused by Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP). This review provides an up-to-date concise overview of the pathogenesis of MAP, the significance of Johne’s disease in cattle and the use of diagnostic testing at both animal and herd level in the context of seasonal pasture-based herds. While MAP can only replicate intracellularly, the bacterium is sufficiently robust to survive for months in the environment. Transmission of MAP is mostly via the faecal-oral route, however in-utero transmission in also possible. The bacteria evade the immune system by persisting in macrophages in the small intestine submucosa, with this latent stage of infection lasting, in most cases, for at least two years before bacterial shedding and clinical signs begin. The slowly progressive nature of MAP infection, poor performance of diagnostic tests and management systems that expose susceptible calves to infection make control of Johne’s disease challenging, particularly in seasonal calving herds. Testing of individual animals provides little assurance for farmers and vets due to the poor sensitivity and, in the case of ELISA, imperfect specificity of the available tests. Repeated herd-level testing is utilised by the IJCP to detect infected herds, identify high risk animals, and provide increasing confidence that test-negative herds are free of infection. The IJCP aims to control the spread of Johne’s disease in cattle in Ireland, in order to protect non-infected herds, limit the economic and animal health impact of the disease, improve calf health and reassure markets of Johne’s disease control in Ireland.

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