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.

Collections in this community

Recent Submissions

  • Associations between postpartum fertility phenotypes and genetic traits in seasonal-calving, pasture-based lactating dairy cows

    Rojas Canadas, E.; Herlihy, M.M.; Kenneally, J.; Grant, J.; Kearney, F.; Lonergan, P.; Butler, Stephen; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; RSF13S528 (Elsevier for American Dairy Science Association, 2019-10-01)
    The objective of this study was to evaluate the associations between corpus luteum (CL) status, uterine health, body condition score (BCS), metabolic status, and parity at wk 3 and 7 postpartum in seasonal-calving, pasture-based, lactating dairy cows. The associations between those phenotypes and individual genetic traits were also evaluated. First- and second-parity spring-calving lactating dairy cows (n = 2,600) from 35 dairy farms in Ireland were enrolled. Farms were visited every 2 weeks; cows that were at wk 3 (range 14 to 27 DIM) and wk 7 (range 42 to 55 DIM) postpartum were examined. Body condition score was measured using a scale of 1 to 5 with 0.25 increments. Transrectal ultrasound examination was performed at wk 3 and 7 postpartum to determine presence or absence of CL and ultrasound reproductive tract score. Blood samples were collected at each visit and the concentrations of glucose, β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), and fatty acids (FA) were analyzed by using enzymatic colorimetry. Cows were grouped into 3 BCS categories [low (≤2.5), target (≥2.75 and ≤3.25), and high (≥3.5)]; 2 CL status categories: (present or absent); 2 uterine health status (UHS) categories (normal and abnormal); and 3 metabolic status categories [good (high glucose, low fatty acids and BHB), poor (low glucose, high fatty acids and BHB), and moderate (all other combinations)]. Fisher's exact test was used to test associations between variables and was supplemented by logistic regression. We found associations between UHS (wk 3 and 7), BCS (wk 3 and 7), parity (wk 3 and 7) metabolic status (wk 3), and predicted transmitting ability for calving interval (PTA for CIV; wk 3) and CL status. Cows that had abnormal UHS, low BCS, primiparity, and poor metabolic status, and were in the quartile with the greatest PTA for CIV were less likely to have had CL present at wk 3 and 7 postpartum. We also found associations between CL status (wk 3 and 7), BCS (wk 3 and 7), parity (wk 3 and 7), and PTA for CIV (wk 3) and UHS. Cows that did not have a CL present had low BCS, primiparity, and that were in the quartile with greatest PTA for CIV, had a greater risk of abnormal UHS at wk 3 and 7 postpartum. We observed strong associations between CL status, UHS, BCS, metabolic status, parity, and individual genetic traits at wk 3 and 7 postpartum in seasonal-calving, pasture-based lactating dairy cows. Achieving target BCS and good metabolic status, and selecting cows based on PTA for CIV, are all expected to increase the likelihood of hastening the resumption of estrous cyclicity and enhancing uterine health during the postpartum period.
  • Milk adulteration with acidified rennet whey: a limitation for caseinomacropeptide detection by high-performance liquid chromatography

    de Pádua Alves, Érika; de Alcântara, Anna Laura D'Amico; Guimarães, Anselmo José Klaechim; de Santana, Elsa Helena Walter; Botaro, Bruno Garcia; Fagnani, Rafael; Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior; Fundação Nacional de Desenvolvimento do Ensino Superior Particular (Wiley, 2018-03-02)
    BACKGROUND High‐performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is widely employed to determine the caseinomacropeptide (CMP) index and to detect milk tampering with rennet whey. Prior to HPLC analysis, CMP is subject to a trichloracetic acid isolation, causing further soluble proteins in the sample to precipitate. On this basis, we aimed to determine whether rennet whey acidification could adversely affect the HPLC sensitivity with respect to detecting this peptide. RESULTS As hypothesized, the CMP index from milk with added acidified rennet whey was, on average, half that quantified from milk with added rennet whey. Moreover, the quantum satis of acidified whey added to milk sufficient to demonstrate a HPLC CMP > 30 mg L–1 was 94% greater than that required for this threshold to be reached with rennet whey. CONCLUSION Milk tampering with acidified rennet whey may limit the analytical sensitivity of the reversed‐phase HPLC employed for the screening of CMP and, ultimately, disguise the fraudulent addition of whey to milk. © 2017 Society of Chemical Industry
  • Intra-Group Lethal Gang Aggression in Domestic Pigs (Sus scrofa domesticus)

    Camerlink, Irene; Chou, Jen-Yun; Turner, Simon P.; European Cooperation in Science and Technology; Scottish Government Strategic Research (MDPI AG, 2020-07-28)
    Intraspecific coalitional aggression is rare among all species, especially within stable social groups. We report here numerous cases of intraspecific lethal gang aggression within stable groups of domestic pigs. The objective was to describe this extreme aggression and to identify potential causes. Management data were collected from farms with (n = 23) and without (n = 19) gang aggression. From one farm, 91 victims were assessed for skin injuries and body condition score. Lethal gang aggression was significantly associated with deep straw bedding, which may be related to various other factors. Gang aggression tended to occur more in winter, and was unrelated to genetic line, breeding company, group size or feed type. It occurred equally in female-only and mixed sex groups (male-only groups were not represented), from around eight weeks of age. Injuries typically covered the whole body and were more severe on the front of the body. Victims who survived had a lower body condition score and fewer injuries than victims found dead. There are still many unknowns as to why this abnormal social behaviour occurs and it deserves further research attention, both for its applied relevance to animal welfare as for the evolutionary background of lethal gang aggression.
  • Effect of Exposure to Seminal Plasma Through Natural Mating in Cattle on Conceptus Length and Gene Expression

    Mateo-Otero, Yentel; Sánchez, José María; Recuero, Sandra; Bagés-Arnal, Sandra; McDonald, Michael; Kenny, David A.; Yeste, Marc; Lonergan, Pat; Fernandez-Fuertes, Beatriz; European Union; et al. (Frontiers Media SA, 2020-05-12)
    A growing body of evidence suggests that paternal factors have an impact on offspring development. These studies have been mainly carried out in mice, where seminal plasma (SP) has been shown to regulate endometrial gene expression and impact embryo development and subsequent offspring health. In cattle, infusion of SP into the uterus also induces changes in endometrial gene expression, however, evidence for an effect of SP on early embryo development is lacking. In addition, during natural mating, the bull ejaculates in the vagina; hence, it is not clear whether any SP reaches the uterus in this species. Thus, the aim of the present study was to determine whether SP exposure leads to improved early embryo survival and developmental rates in cattle. To this end, Day 7 in vitro produced blastocysts were transferred to heifers (12–15 per heifer) previously mated to vasectomized bulls (n = 13 heifers) or left unmated (n = 12 heifers; control). At Day 14, heifers were slaughtered, and conceptuses were recovered to assess size, morphology and expression of candidate genes involved in different developmental pathways. Additionally, CL volume at Day 7, and weight and volume of CL at Day 14 were recorded. No effect of SP on CL volume and weight not on conceptus recovery rate was observed. However, filamentous conceptuses recovered from SP-exposed heifers were longer in comparison to the control group and differed in expression of CALM1, CITED1, DLD, HNRNPDL, PTGS2, and TGFB3. In conclusion, data indicate that female exposure to SP during natural mating can affect conceptus development in cattle. This is probably achieved through modulation of the female reproductive environment at the time of mating. Keywords: seminal plasma, embryo development, corpus luteum
  • Genomic Regions Associated With Gestation Length Detected Using Whole-Genome Sequence Data Differ Between Dairy and Beef Cattle

    Purfield, Deirdre C.; Evans, Ross D.; Carthy, Tara R.; Berry, Donagh; European Union; Science Foundation Ireland; 727213; 14/IA/2576; 16/RC/3835 (Frontiers Media SA, 2019-11-05)
    While many association studies exist that have attempted to relate genomic markers to phenotypic performance in cattle, very few have considered gestation length as a phenotype, and of those that did, none used whole genome sequence data from multiple breeds. The objective of the present study was therefore to relate imputed whole genome sequence data to estimated breeding values for gestation length using 22,566 sires (representing 2,262,706 progeny) of multiple breeds [Angus (AA), Charolais (CH), Holstein-Friesian (HF), and Limousin (LM)]. The associations were undertaken within breed using linear mixed models that accounted for genomic relatedness among sires; a separate association analysis was undertaken with all breeds analysed together but with breed included as a fixed effect in the model. Furthermore, the genome was divided into 500 kb segments and whether or not segments harboured a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) with a P ≤ 1 × 10-4 common to different combinations of breeds was determined. Putative quantitative trait loci (QTL) regions associated with gestation length were detected in all breeds; significant associations with gestation length were only detected in the HF population and in the across-breed analysis of all 22,566 sires. Twenty-five SNPs were significantly associated (P ≤ 5 × 10-8) with gestation length in the HF population. Of the 25 significant SNPs, 18 were located within three QTLs on Bos taurus autosome number (BTA) 18, six were in two QTL on BTA19, and one was located within a QTL on BTA7. The strongest association was rs381577268, a downstream variant of ZNF613 located within a QTL spanning from 58.06 to 58.19 Mb on BTA18; it accounted for 1.37% of the genetic variance in gestation length. Overall there were 11 HF animals within the edited dataset that were homozygous for the T allele at rs381577268 and these had a 3.3 day longer (P < 0.0001) estimated breeding value (EBV) for gestation length than the heterozygous animals and a 4.7 day longer (P < 0.0001) EBV for gestation length than the homozygous CC animals. The majority of the 500 kb windows harboring a SNP with a P ≤ 1 × 10-4 were unique to a single breed and no window was shared among all four breeds for gestation length, suggesting any QTLs identified are breed-specific associations.
  • Validation of an Automated Body Condition Scoring System Using 3D Imaging

    O’ Leary, Niall O’; Leso, Lorenzo; Buckley, Frank; Kenneally, Jonathon; McSweeney, Diarmuid; Shalloo, Laurence; Science Foundation Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 13/IA/1977; 16/RC/3835 (MDPI AG, 2020-06-26)
    Body condition scores (BCS) measure a cow’s fat reserves and is important for management and research. Manual BCS assessment is subjective, time-consuming, and requires trained personnel. The BodyMat F (BMF, Ingenera SA, Cureglia, Switzerland) is an automated body condition scoring system using a 3D sensor to estimate BCS. This study assesses the BMF. One hundred and three Holstein Friesian cows were assessed by the BMF and two assessors throughout a lactation. The BMF output is in the 0–5 scale commonly used in France. We develop and report the first equation to convert these scores to the 1–5 scale used by the assessors in Ireland in this study ((0–5 scale × 0.38) + 1.67 → 1–5 scale). Inter-assessor agreement as measured by Lin’s concordance of correlation was 0.67. BMF agreement with the mean of the two assessors was the same as between assessors (0.67). However, agreement was lower for extreme values, particularly in over-conditioned cows where the BMF underestimated BCS relative to the mean of the two human observers. The BMF outperformed human assessors in terms of reproducibility and thus is likely to be especially useful in research contexts. This is the second independent validation of a commercially marketed body condition scoring system as far as the authors are aware. Comparing the results here with the published evaluation of the other system, we conclude that the BMF performed as well or better.
  • Screening commercial teat disinfectants against bacteria isolated from bovine milk using disk diffusion

    Fitzpatrick, Sarah Rose; Garvey, Mary; Jordan, Kieran; Flynn, Jim; O'Brien, Bernadette; Gleeson, David; Dairy Research Ireland; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; MKLS0006; 2016054 (Veterinary World, 2019-05-06)
    Background and Aim: Teat disinfection is an important tool in reducing the incidence of bovine mastitis. Identifying the potential mastitis-causing bacterial species in milk can be the first step in choosing the correct teat disinfectant product. The objective of this study was to screen commercial teat disinfectants for inhibition against mastitis-associated bacteria isolated from various types of milk samples. Materials and Methods: Twelve commercially available teat disinfectant products were tested, against 12 mastitis-associated bacteria strains isolated from bulk tank milk samples and bacterial strains isolated from clinical (n=2) and subclinical (n=3) quarter foremilk samples using the disk diffusion method. Results: There was a significant variation (7-30 mm) in bacterial inhibition between teat disinfection products, with products containing a lactic acid combination (with chlorhexidine or salicylic acid) resulting in the greatest levels of bacterial inhibition against all tested bacteria (p<0.05). Conclusion: In this study, combined ingredients in teat disinfection products had greater levels of bacterial inhibition than when the ingredients were used individually. The disk diffusion assay is a suitable screening method to effectively differentiate the bacterial inhibition of different teat disinfectant products.
  • Fecal Microbiota Transplant From Highly Feed Efficient Donors Affects Cecal Physiology and Microbiota in Low- and High-Feed Efficient Chickens

    Metzler-Zebeli, Barbara U.; Siegerstetter, Sina-Catherine; Magowan, Elizabeth; Lawlor, Peadar G.; O′Connell, Niamh E.; Zebeli, Qendrim; European Union; 311794 (Frontiers Media SA, 2019-07-09)
    Fecal microbiota transplants (FMT) may be used to improve chicken’s feed efficiency (FE) via modulation of the intestinal microbiota and microbe-host signaling. This study investigated the effect of the administration of FMT from highly feed efficient donors early in life on the jejunal and cecal microbiota, visceral organ size, intestinal morphology, permeability, and expression of genes for nutrient transporters, barrier function and innate immune response in chickens of diverging residual feed intake (RFI; a metric for FE). Chicks (n = 110) were inoculated with the FMT or control transplant (CT) on 1, 6, and 9 days posthatch (dph), from which 56 chickens were selected on 30 dph as the extremes in RFI, resulting in 15 low and 13 high RFI chickens receiving the FMT and 14 low and 14 high RFI chickens receiving the CT. RFI rank and FMT only caused tendencies for alterations in the jejunal microbiota and only one unclassified Lachnospiraceae genus in cecal digesta was indicative of high RFI. By contrast, the FMT caused clear differences in the short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) profile in the crop and cecal microbiota composition compared to the CT, which indicated alterations in amylolytic, pullulanolytic and hemicellulolytic bacteria such as Lactobacillus, Dorea, and Ruminococcus. Moreover, the FMT caused alterations in intestinal development as indicated by the longer duodenum and shallower crypts in the ceca. From the observed RFI-associated variation, energy-saving mechanisms and moderation of the mucosal immune response were indicated by higher jejunal permeability, shorter villi in the ileum, and enhanced cecal expression of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL10 in low RFI chickens. Relationships obtained from supervised multigroup data integration support that certain bacteria, including Ruminococcocaceae-, Lactobacillus-, and unclassified Clostridiales-phylotypes, and SCFA in jejunal and cecal digesta modulated expression levels of cytokines, tight-junction protein OCLN and nutrient transporters for glucose and SCFA uptake. In conclusion, results suggest that the intestine only played a moderate role for the RFI-associated variation of the present low and high RFI phenotypes, whereas modulating the early microbial colonization resulted in longlasting changes in bacterial taxonomic and metabolite composition as well as in host intestinal development.
  • Choice of artificial insemination beef bulls used to mate with female dairy cattle

    Berry, Donagh; Ring, S.C.; Twomey, A.J.; Evans, R.D.; Science Foundation Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 16/RC/3835 (Elsevier for American Dairy Science Association, 2020-02)
    Understanding the preferences of dairy cattle producers when selecting beef bulls for mating can help inform beef breeding programs as well as provide default parameters in mating advice systems. The objective of the present study was to characterize the genetic merit of beef artificial insemination (AI) bulls used in dairy herds, with particular reference to traits associated with both calving performance and carcass merit. The characteristics of the beef AI bulls used were compared with those of the dairy AI bulls used on the same farms. A total of 2,733,524 AI records from 928,437 females in 5,967 Irish dairy herds were used. Sire predicted transmitting ability (PTA) values and associated reliability values for calving performance and carcass traits based on national genetic evaluations from prior to the insemination were used. Fixed effects models were used to relate both genetic merit and the associated reliability of the dairy and beef bulls used on the farm with herd size, the extent of Holstein-Friesian × Jersey crossbreeding adopted by the herd, whether the herd used a technician insemination service or do-ityourself, and the parity of the female mated. The mean direct calving difficulty PTA of the beef bulls used was 1.85 units higher than that of the dairy bulls but with over 3 times greater variability in the beef bulls. This 1.85 units equates biologically to an expectation of 1.85 more dystocia events per 100 dairy cows mated in the beef × dairy matings. The mean calving difficulty PTA of the dairy AI bulls used reduced with increasing herd size, whereas the mean calving difficulty PTA of the beef AI bulls used increased as herd size increased from 75 cows or fewer to 155 cows; the largest herds (>155 cows) used notably easier-calving beef bulls, albeit the calving difficulty PTA of the beef bulls was 3.33 units versus 1.67 units for the dairy bulls used in these herds. Although we found a general tendency for larger herds to use dairy AI bulls with lower reliability, this trend was not obvious in the beef AI bulls used. Irrespective of whether dairy or beef AI bulls were considered, herds that operated more extensive Holstein-Friesian × Jersey crossbreeding (i.e., more than 50% crossbred cows) used, on average, easier calving, shorter gestationlength bulls with lighter expected progeny carcasses of poorer conformation. Mean calving difficulty PTA of dairy bulls used increased from 1.39 in heifers to 1.79 in first-parity cows and to 1.82 in second-parity cows, remaining relatively constant thereafter. In contrast, the mean calving difficulty PTA of the beef bulls used increased consistently with cow parity. Results from the present study demonstrate a clear difference in the mean acceptable genetic merit of beef AI bulls relative to dairy AI bulls but also indicates that these acceptable limits vary by herd characteristics.
  • Differences in intestinal size, structure, and function contributing to feed efficiency in broiler chickens reared at geographically distant locations

    Metzler-Zebeli, B.U.; Magowan, E.; Hollmann, M.; Ball, M.E.E.; Molnár, A.; Witter, K.; Ertl, R.; Hawken, R.J.; Lawlor, Peadar G.; O’Connell, N.E.; et al. (Elsevier BV, 2018-02)
    The contribution of the intestinal tract to differences in residual feed intake (RFI) has been inconclusively studied in chickens so far. It is also not clear if RFI-related differences in intestinal function are similar in chickens raised in different environments. The objective was to investigate differences in nutrient retention, visceral organ size, intestinal morphology, jejunal permeability and expression of genes related to barrier function, and innate immune response in chickens of diverging RFI raised at 2 locations (L1: Austria; L2: UK). The experimental protocol was similar, and the same dietary formulation was fed at the 2 locations. Individual BW and feed intake (FI) of chickens (Cobb 500FF) were recorded from d 7 of life. At 5 wk of life, chickens (L1, n = 157; L2 = 192) were ranked according to their RFI, and low, medium, and high RFI chickens were selected (n = 9/RFI group, sex, and location). RFI values were similar between locations within the same RFI group and increased by 446 and 464 g from low to high RFI in females and males, respectively. Location, but not RFI rank, affected growth, nutrient retention, size of the intestine, and jejunal disaccharidase activity. Chickens from L2 had lower total body weight gain and mucosal enzyme activity but higher nutrient retention and longer intestines than chickens at L1. Parameters determined only at L1 showed increased crypt depth in the duodenum and jejunum and enhanced paracellular permeability in low vs. high RFI females. Jejunal expression of IL1B was lower in low vs. high RFI females at L2, whereas that of TLR4 at L1 and MCT1 at both locations was higher in low vs. high RFI males. Correlation analysis between intestinal parameters and feed efficiency metrics indicated that feed conversion ratio was more correlated to intestinal size and function than was RFI. In conclusion, the rearing environment greatly affected intestinal size and function, thereby contributing to the variation in chicken RFI observed across locations.
  • A bio-economic model for cost analysis of alternative management strategies in beef finishing systems

    Kamilaris, C.; Dewhurst, R.J.; Vosough Ahmadi, B.; Crosson, Paul; Alexander, P.; SRUC PhD studentship; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Scottish Government (Elsevier BV, 2019-10-26)
    Global population growth together with rising incomes is increasing the demand for meat-based products. This increases the need to optimize livestock production structures, whilst ensuring viable returns for the farmers. On a global scale, beef producers need tools to assist them to produce more high-quality products whilst maintaining economic efficiency. The Grange Scottish Beef Model (GSBM) was customized to simulate beef finishing enterprises using data from Scottish beef finishing studies, as well as agricultural input and output price datasets. Here we describe the model and its use to determine the cost-effectiveness of alternative current management practices (e.g. forage- and cereal-based finishing) and slaughter ages (i.e. short, medium or long finishing duration). To better understand drivers of profitability in beef finishing systems, several scenarios comparing finishing duration, gender, genetic selection of stock for growth rate or feed efficiency, as well as financial support were tested. There are opportunities for profitable and sustainable beef production in Scotland, for both cereal and forage based systems, particularly when aiming for a younger age profile at slaughtering. By careful choice of finishing systems matched to animal potential, as well as future selection of high performing and feed efficient cattle, beef finishers will be able to enhance performance and increase financial returns.
  • Cervico-vaginal mucus (CVM) – an accessible source of immunologically informative biomolecules

    Adnane, Mounir; Meade, Kieran G; O’Farrelly, Cliona; Science Foundation Ireland; Health Research Board; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 12/Ia/1667; HRA_POR/2012/37; FIRM/ RSF/CoFoRD 2013–2016: ENRICH; FIRM/RSF/CoFoRD 2011-2015 (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2018-08-16)
    Cervico-vaginal mucus (CVM), the product of epithelial cells lining the uterus, cervix and vagina, is secreted to facilitate uterine lubrication and microbial clearance. Predominantly composed of water and mucins, CVM also contains high levels of immuno-active proteins such as immunoglobulin A (IgA), lactoferrin and lysozyme which protect against infection by blocking adhesion and mediating microbial killing. The repertoire of cytokines, chemokines and antimicrobial peptides is predominantly generated by the secretions of endometrial epithelial cells into the uterine lumen and concentrated in the CVM. The quantity and relative proportions of these inflammatory biomarkers are affected by diverse factors including the estrus cycle and health status of the animal and therefore potentially provide important diagnostic and prognostic indicators. We propose that measuring molecular signatures in bovine CVM could be a useful approach to identifying and monitoring genital tract pathologies in beef and dairy cows.
  • Investigation of molecular mechanisms underlying tetracycline resistance in thermophilic Campylobacter spp. suggests that previous reports of tet(A)-mediated resistance in these bacteria are premature

    Lynch, Caoimhe; Hawkins, Kayleigh; Lynch, Helen; Egan, John; Bolton, Declan; Coffey, Aidan; Lucey, Brigid; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Ref. 15/F/641; et al. (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2019-11-09)
    The true prevalence of tet(A), which codes for a tetracycline efflux pump, in thermophilic Camplyobacter spp. requires clarification after reports emerged in Iran (2014) and Kenya (2016) of the novel detection of tet(A) in Campylobacter. During our investigation of antibiotic resistance mechanisms in a sample of Irish thermophilic Campylobacter broiler isolates, it was determined that 100% of tetracycline-resistant isolates (n = 119) harboured tet(O). Accessory tetracycline-resistance mechanisms were considered as tetracycline minimum inhibitory concentrations ranged from 4 to ≥ 64 mg/L. Primers previously reported for the detection of tet(A) in Campylobacter failed to produce an amplicon using a positive control strain (Escherichia coli K12 SK1592 containing the pBR322 plasmid) and a selection of Campylobacter isolates. Accordingly, we designed new tet(A)-targeting primers on SnapGene2.3.2 that successfully generated a 407 bp product from the positive control strain only. Further in silico analysis using BLASTn and SnapGene2.3.2 revealed that previously reported Campylobacter tet(A) sequences deposited on GenBank shared 100% homology with Campylobacter tet(O). We postulate that this gave rise to the erroneous report of a high tet(A) prevalence among a pool of Kenyan broiler Campylobacter isolates that were tested using primers designed based on these apparent tet(A) sequences. In conclusion, further work would be required to determine whether the homology between tet(A) potentially present in Campylobacter and known tet(A) genes would be sufficient to allow amplification using the primers designed in our study. Finally, the existence of tet(A) in thermophilic Campylobacter spp. remains to be demonstrated.
  • Pig farmers’ willingness to pay for management strategies to reduce aggression between pigs

    Peden, Rachel S. E.; Akaichi, Faical; Camerlink, Irene; Boyle, Laura; Turner, Simon P.; Scotland’s Rural College (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2019-11-08)
    When deciding whether to invest in an improvement to animal welfare, farmers must trade-off the relative costs and benefits. Despite the existence of effective solutions to many animal welfare issues, farmers’ willingness to pay for them is largely unknown. This study modelled pig farmers’ decisions to improve animal welfare using a discrete choice experiment focused on alleviating aggression between growing/finishing pigs at regrouping. Eighty-two UK and Irish pig farm owners and managers were asked to choose between hypothetical aggression control strategies described in terms of four attributes; installation cost, on-going cost, impact on skin lesions from aggression and impact on growth rate. If they did not like any of the strategies they could opt to keep their current farm practice. Systematic variations in product attributes allowed farmers’ preferences and willingness to pay to be estimated and latent class modelling accounted for heterogeneity in responses. The overall willingness to pay to reduce lesions was low at £0.06 per pig place (installation cost) and £0.01 per pig produced (running cost) for each 1% reduction in lesions. Results revealed three independent classes of farmers. Farmers in Class 1 were unlikely to regroup unfamiliar growing/finishing pigs, and thus were unwilling to adopt measures to reduce aggression at regrouping. Farmers in Classes 2 and 3 were willing to adopt measures providing certain pre-conditions were met. Farmers in Class 2 were motivated mainly by business goals, whilst farmers in Class 3 were motivated by both business and animal welfare goals, and were willing to pay the most to reduce aggression; £0.11 per pig place and £0.03 per pig produced for each 1% reduction in lesions. Farmers should not be considered a homogeneous group regarding the adoption of animal welfare innovations. Instead, campaigns should be targeted at subgroups according to their independent preferences and willingness to pay.
  • Long-term effects of prior diets, dietary transition and pregnancy on adipose gene expression in dairy heifers

    Wærp, Hilde K. L.; Waters, Sinead M.; McCabe, Matthew S.; Cormican, Paul; Salte, Ragnar; Research Council of Norway; TINE SA Norwegian dairies; Felleskjøpet agricultural cooperative; Animalia AS; 199448 (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2019-07-03)
    Adipose tissue is highly involved in whole-body metabolism and is the main site for lipid synthesis, storage and mobilization in ruminants. Therefore, knowledge about adipose tissue responses to different diets is important, especially in growing heifers as the feeding regimes of replacement heifers affect their future success as dairy cows. However, at gene expression level such knowledge is limited. As part of a larger feed trial, adipose tissue biopsies from 24 Norwegian Red heifers were collected at 12 months of age (12MO) and at month seven of gestation (PREG) and analyzed by next-generation mRNA sequencing. Between these two sampling points, all heifers had gone through a successful conception and a feed change from four dietary treatments of high or low energy (HE/LE) and protein (HP/LP) content (treatments LPHE, HPHE, LPLE and HPLE) to a low-energy, low-protein pregnancy feed given to all animals. Gene expression differences between different feed treatments at 12MO are described in an earlier publication from our group. The main objectives of this study were to investigate the long-term effects of diets differing in protein and energy density level on gene expression in adipose tissue of growing replacement dairy heifers. To achieve this, we examined the post-treatment effects between the treatment groups at month seven of gestation; 6 months after the termination of experimental feeding, and the long-term gene expression changes occurring in the adipose tissue between 12MO and PREG. Post-treatment group comparisons showed evidence of long-term effects of dietary treatment on adipose gene expression. Differences between protein treatments were smaller than between energy treatments. Adipose gene expression changes from 12MO to PREG were much larger for the HE than the LE treatments and seemed to mostly be explained by the characteristics of the diet change. 97 genes displayed a unidirectional expression change for all groups from 12MO to PREG, and are considered to be treatment-independent, possibly caused by pregnancy or increased age. This study provides candidate genes and key regulators for further studies on pregnancy preservation (TGFB1, CFD) and metabolic regulation and efficiency (PI3K, RICTOR, MAP4K4,) in dairy cattle.
  • Effect of dietary restriction and subsequent re-alimentation on the transcriptional profile of bovine jejunal epithelium

    Keogh, Kate; Waters, Sinead M.; Cormican, Paul; Kelly, Alan K.; Kenny, David A.; Science Foundation Ireland; 09/ RFP/GEN2447 (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2018-03-19)
    Compensatory growth (CG), an accelerated growth phenomenon which occurs following a period of dietary restriction is utilised worldwide in animal production systems as a management practise to lower feed costs. The objective of this study was to evaluate the contribution of jejunal epithelial to CG in cattle through transcriptional profiling following a period of dietary restriction as well as subsequent re-alimentation induced CG. Sixty Holstein Friesian bulls were separated into two groups; RES and ADLIB, with 30 animals in each. RES animals were offered a restricted diet for 125 days (Period 1) followed by ad libitum feeding for 55 days (Period 2). ADLIB animals had ad libitum access to feed across both periods 1 and 2. At the end of each period, 15 animals from each treatment group were slaughtered, jejunal epithelium collected and RNAseq analysis performed. Animals that were previously diet restricted underwent CG, gaining 1.8 times the rate of their non-restricted counterparts. Twenty-four genes were differentially expressed in RES compared to ADLIB animals at the end of Period 1, with only one gene, GSTA1, differentially expressed between the two groups at the end of Period 2. When analysed within treatment (RES, Period 2 v Period 1), 31 genes were differentially expressed between diet restricted and animals undergoing CG. Dietary restriction and subsequent re-alimentation were associated with altered expression of genes involved in digestion and metabolism as well as those involved in cellular division and growth. Compensatory growth was also associated with greater expression of genes involved in cellular protection and detoxification in jejunal epithelium. This study highlights some of the molecular mechanisms regulating the response to dietary restriction and subsequent re-alimentation induced CG in cattle; however the gene expression results suggest that most of the CG in jejunal epithelium had occurred by day 55 of re-alimentation.
  • Associating cow characteristics with mobility scores in pasture-based dairy cows

    O'Connor, A.H.; Bokkers, E.A.M.; de Boer, I.J.M.; Hogeveen, H.; Sayers, Riona; Byrne, Nicky; Ruelle, Elodie; Shalloo, Laurence; Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier for American Dairy Science Association, 2019-07-10)
    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.
  • 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.
  • Whole blood gene expression profiling of neonates with confirmed bacterial sepsis

    Dickinson, Paul; Smith, Claire L.; Forster, Thorsten; Craigon, Marie; Ross, Alan J.; Khondoker, Mizan R.; Ivens, Alasdair; Lynn, David J.; Orme, Judith; Jackson, Allan; et al. (Elsevier BV, 2014-11-15)
    Neonatal infection remains a primary cause of infant morbidity and mortality worldwide and yet our understanding of how human neonates respond to infection remains incomplete. Changes in host gene expression in response to infection may occur in any part of the body, with the continuous interaction between blood and tissues allowing blood cells to act as biosensors for the changes. In this study we have used whole blood transcriptome profiling to systematically identify signatures and the pathway biology underlying the pathogenesis of neonatal infection. Blood samples were collected from neonates at the first clinical signs of suspected sepsis alongside age matched healthy control subjects. Here we report a detailed description of the study design, including clinical data collected, experimental methods used and data analysis workflows and which correspond with data in Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) data sets (GSE25504). Our data set has allowed identification of a patient invariant 52-gene classifier that predicts bacterial infection with high accuracy and lays the foundation for advancing diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic strategies for neonatal sepsis.
  • The effect of target postgrazing height on sward clover content, herbage yield, and dairy production from grass-white clover pasture

    Phelan, P.; Casey, I.A.; Humphreys, James; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; RSF 07-511 (American Dairy Science Association, 2013-01-18)
    White clover (Trifolium repens) is an important legume for grazed grassland that can increase the profitability and environmental sustainability of milk production. Previous experiments on mown grass-clover plots suggest that low postgrazing heights (PGH) can increase sward clover content and herbage production. However, this has not been tested in actual strip or rotational grazing systems with dairy cows. Furthermore, lowering PGH in grass-only swards (typically perennial ryegrass without white clover) has previously been associated with reduced milk yields per cow. The objective of this experiment was to investigate the effect of PGH by dairy cows on clover content, herbage production, and milk production from strip-grazed grass-white clover swards in Ireland. Three target PGH treatments of 4, 5, and 6 cm were in place for entire grazing seasons (February to November) for 3 consecutive years (2007 to 2009). Each treatment had a mean of 21 Holstein-Friesian dairy cows that strip-grazed a mean annual area of 10.2 ha. Postgrazing height was measured twice a day with a rising plate meter, and cows were moved to the next strip once the target PGH was reached. Annual fertilizer nitrogen input was 90 kg of N/ha for each treatment. The PGH treatment did not significantly affect annual milk yield (6,202 kg/cow), solids-corrected milk yield (6,148 kg/cow), fat, protein, or lactose yields (265, 222, and 289 kg/cow, respectively), cow liveweight (592 kg) or body condition score (3.01). The PGH treatment also had no significant effect on sward white clover content (196 g/kg). However, herbage production of both grass and clover were significantly higher with the 4-cm PGH treatment compared with the 6-cm treatment. Mean annual herbage yields were 11.1, 10.2, and 9.1 t of organic matter (OM)/ha for the 4-, 5-, and 6-cm PGH treatments, respectively. The lower herbage production in the 6-cm PGH treatment resulted in lower annual silage production, greater housing requirements, and a substantially higher net silage deficit (−1,917 kg of OM/cow) compared with the 5- or 4-cm treatments (−868 and −192 kg of OM/cow, respectively). Grazing to a PGH of 4 cm is therefore recommended for grass-white clover swards.

View more