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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  • A comparison of 4 predictive models of calving assistance and difficulty in dairy heifers and cows

    Fenlon, Caroline; O'Grady, Luke; Mee, John F; Butler, Stephen T.; Doherty, Michael L.; Dunnion, John; Dairy Research Ireland (Elsevier, 21/09/2017)
    The aim of this study was to build and compare predictive models of calving difficulty in dairy heifers and cows for the purpose of decision support and simulation modeling. Models to predict 3 levels of calving difficulty (unassisted, slight assistance, and considerable or veterinary assistance) were created using 4 machine learning techniques: multinomial regression, decision trees, random forests, and neural networks. The data used were sourced from 2,076 calving records in 10 Irish dairy herds. In total, 19.9 and 5.9% of calving events required slight assistance and considerable or veterinary assistance, respectively. Variables related to parity, genetics, BCS, breed, previous calving, and reproductive events and the calf were included in the analysis. Based on a stepwise regression modeling process, the variables included in the models were the dam's direct and maternal calving difficulty predicted transmitting abilities (PTA), BCS at calving, parity; calving assistance or difficulty at the previous calving; proportion of Holstein breed; sire breed; sire direct calving difficulty PTA; twinning; and 2-way interactions between calving BCS and previous calving difficulty and the direct calving difficulty PTA of dam and sire. The models were built using bootstrapping procedures on 70% of the data set. The held-back 30% of the data was used to evaluate the predictive performance of the models in terms of discrimination and calibration. The decision tree and random forest models omitted the effect of twinning and included only subsets of sire breeds. Only multinomial regression and neural networks explicitly included the modeled interactions. Calving BCS, calving difficulty PTA, and previous calving assistance ranked as highly important variables for all 4 models. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (ranging from 0.64 to 0.79) indicates that all of the models had good overall discriminatory power. The neural network and multinomial regression models performed best, correctly classifying 75% of calving cases and showing superior calibration, with an average error in predicted probability of 3.7 and 4.5%, respectively. The neural network and multinomial regression models developed are both suitable for use in decision-support and simulation modeling.
  • Do weaner pigs need in-feed antibiotics to ensure good health and welfare?

    Diana, Alessia; Manzanilla, Edgar G.; Calderon Diaz, Julia A.; Leonard, Finola C.; Boyle, Laura A. (PLOS, 2017-10-05)
    Antibiotics (AB) are used in intensive pig production systems to control infectious diseases and they are suspected to be a major source of antibiotic resistance. Following the ban on AB use as growth promoters in the EU, their prophylactic use in-feed is now under review. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of removing prophylactic in-feed AB on pig health and welfare indicators. Every Monday for six weeks, a subset of 70 pigs were weaned, tagged and sorted into two groups of 35 pigs according to weight (9.2 ± 0.6 kg). AB were removed from the diet of one group (NO, n=6) and maintained in the other group (AB, n=6) for nine weeks. Ten focal pigs were chosen per group. After c. five weeks each group was split into two pens of c.17 pigs for the following 4 weeks. Data were recorded weekly. Skin, tail, ear, flank and limb lesions of focal pigs were scored according to severity. The number of animals per group affected by health deviations was also recorded. The number of fights and harmful behaviours (ear, tail bites) per group was counted during 3×5min observations once per week. Data were analysed using mixed model equations and binomial logistic regression. At group level, AB pigs were more likely to have tail (OR=1.70; P=0.05) but less likely to have ear lesions than NO pigs (OR=0.46; P<0.05). The number of ear bites (21.4±2.15 vs. 17.3±1.61; P<0.05) and fights (6.91±0.91 vs. 5.58±0.72; P=0.09) was higher in AB than in NO pigs. There was no effect of treatment on health deviations and the frequency of these was low. Removing AB from the feed of weaner pigs had minimal effects on health and welfare indicators.
  • Finishing pigs that are divergent in feed efficiency show small differences in intestinal functionality and structure

    Metzler-Zebeli, Barbara U.; Lawlor, Peadar G; Magowan, Elizabeth; McCormack, Ursula M.; Curiao, Tania; Hollmann, Manfred; Ertl, Reinhardt; Aschenbach, Jorg R.; Zebeli, Qendrim (PLOS, 2017-04-05)
    Controversial information is available regarding the feed efficiency-related variation in intestinal size, structure and functionality in pigs. The present objective was therefore to investigate the differences in visceral organ size, intestinal morphology, mucosal enzyme activity, intestinal integrity and related gene expression in low and high RFI pigs which were reared at three different geographical locations (Austria, AT; Northern Ireland, NI; Republic of Ireland, ROI) using similar protocols. Pigs (n = 369) were ranked for their RFI between days 42 and 91 postweaning and low and high RFI pigs (n = 16 from AT, n = 24 from NI, and n = 60 from ROI) were selected. Pigs were sacrificed and sampled on ~day 110 of life. In general, RFI-related variation in intestinal size, structure and function was small. Some energy saving mechanisms and enhanced digestive and absorptive capacity were indicated in low versus high RFI pigs by shorter crypts, higher duodenal lactase and maltase activity and greater mucosal permeability (P < 0.05), but differences were mainly seen in pigs from AT and to a lesser degree in pigs from ROI. Additionally, low RFI pigs from AT had more goblet cells in duodenum but fewer in jejunum compared to high RFI pigs (P < 0.05). Together with the lower expression of TLR4 and TNFA in low versus high RFI pigs from AT and ROI (P < 0.05), these results might indicate differences in the innate immune response between low and high RFI pigs. Results demonstrated that the variation in the size of visceral organs and intestinal structure and functionality was greater between geographic location (local environmental factors) than between RFI ranks of pigs. In conclusion, present results support previous findings that the intestinal size, structure and functionality do not significantly contribute to variation in RFI of pigs.
  • The bovine paranasal sinuses: Bacterial flora, epithelial expression of nitric oxide and potential role in the in-herd persistence of respiratory disease pathogens

    Murray, Gerard M.; O'Neill, Ronan G.; Lee, Alison M.; McElroy, Maire; More, Simon J.; Monagle, Aisling; Earley, Bernadette; Cassidy, Joseph P. (PLOS, 2017-03-10)
    The bovine paranasal sinuses are a group of complex cavernous air-filled spaces, lined by respiratory epithelium, the exact function of which is unclear. While lesions affecting these sinuses are occasionally reported in cattle, their microbial flora has not been defined. Furthermore, given that the various bacterial and viral pathogens causing bovine respiratory disease (BRD) persist within herds, we speculated that the paranasal sinuses may serve as a refuge for such infectious agents. The paranasal sinuses of clinically normal cattle (n = 99) and of cattle submitted for post-mortem examination (PME: n = 34) were examined by microbial culture, PCR and serology to include bacterial and viral pathogens typically associated with BRD: Mycoplasma bovis, Histophilus somni, Mannheimia haemolytica and Pasteurella multocida, bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV) and bovine parainfluenza-3 virus (BPIV-3). Overall, the paranasal sinuses were either predominantly sterile or did not contain detectable microbes (83.5%: 94.9% of clinically normal and 50.0% of cattle submitted for PME). Bacteria, including BRD causing pathogens, were identified in relatively small numbers of cattle (<10%). While serology indicated widespread exposure of both clinically normal and cattle submitted for PME to BPIV-3 and BRSV (seroprevalences of 91.6% and 84.7%, respectively), PCR identified BPIV-3 in only one animal. To further explore these findings we investigated the potential role of the antimicrobial molecule nitric oxide (NO) within paranasal sinus epithelium using immunohistochemistry. Expression of the enzyme responsible for NO synthesis, inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), was detected to varying degrees in 76.5% of a sub-sample of animals suggesting production of this compound plays a similar protective role in the bovine sinus as it does in humans.
  • Genome-wide association analysis and functional annotation of positional candidate genes for feed conversion efficiency and growth rate in pigs

    Horodyska, Justyna; Hamill, Ruth M.; Varley, Patrick F.; Wimmers, Klaus (PLOS, 2017-06-12)
    Feed conversion efficiency is a measure of how well an animal converts feed into live weight and it is typically expressed as feed conversion ratio (FCR). FCR and related traits like growth rate (e.g. days to 110 kg—D110) are of high interest for animal breeders, farmers and society due to implications on animal performance, feeding costs and environmental sustainability. The objective of this study was to identify genomic regions associated with FCR and D110 in pigs. A total of 952 terminal line boars, showing an individual variation in FCR, were genotyped using 60K SNP-Chips. Markers were tested for associations with estimated breeding values (EBV) for FCR and D110. For FCR, the largest number of associated SNPs was located on chromosomes 4 (30 SNPs), 1 (25 SNPs), X (15 SNPs) and 6 (12 SNPs). The most prominent genomic regions for D110 were identified on chromosomes 15 (10 SNPs), 1 and 4 (both 9 SNPs). The most significantly associated SNPs for FCR and D110 mapped 129.8 Kb from METTL11B (chromosome 4) and 32Kb from MBD5 (chromosome 15), respectively. A list of positional genes, closest to significantly associated SNPs, was used to identify enriched pathways and biological functions related to the QTL for both traits. A number of candidate genes were significantly overrepresented in pathways of immune cell trafficking, lymphoid tissue structure, organ morphology, endocrine system function, lipid metabolism, and energy production. After resequencing the coding region of selected positional and functional candidate genes, six SNPs were genotyped in a subset of boars. SNPs in PRKDC, SELL, NR2E1 and AKRIC3 showed significant associations with EBVs for FCR/D110. The study revealed a number of chromosomal regions and candidate genes affecting FCR/D110 and pointed to corresponding biological pathways related to lipid metabolism, olfactory reception, and also immunological status.
  • Illumina MiSeq Phylogenetic Amplicon Sequencing Shows a Large Reduction of an Uncharacterised Succinivibrionaceae and an Increase of the Methanobrevibacter gottschalkii Clade in Feed Restricted Cattle

    McCabe, Matthew Sean; Cormican, Paul; Keogh, Kate; O'Connor, Aaron; O'Hara, Eoin; Palladino, Rafael Alejandro; Kenny, David A.; Waters, Sinead M. (PLOS, 2015-07-30)
    Periodic feed restriction is used in cattle production to reduce feed costs. When normal feed levels are resumed, cattle catch up to a normal weight by an acceleration of normal growth rate, known as compensatory growth, which is not yet fully understood. Illumina Miseq Phylogenetic marker amplicon sequencing of DNA extracted from rumen contents of 55 bulls showed that restriction of feed (70% concentrate, 30% grass silage) for 125 days, to levels that caused a 60% reduction of growth rate, resulted in a large increase of relative abundance of Methanobrevibacter gottschalkii clade (designated as OTU-M7), and a large reduction of an uncharacterised Succinivibrionaceae species (designated as OTU-S3004). There was a strong negative Spearman correlation (ρ = -0.72, P = <1x10-20) between relative abundances of OTU-3004 and OTU-M7 in the liquid rumen fraction. There was also a significant increase in acetate:propionate ratio (A:P) in feed restricted animals that showed a negative Spearman correlation (ρ = -0.69, P = <1x10-20) with the relative abundance of OTU-S3004 in the rumen liquid fraction but not the solid fraction, and a strong positive Spearman correlation with OTU-M7 in the rumen liquid (ρ = 0.74, P = <1x10-20) and solid (ρ = 0.69, P = <1x10-20) fractions. Reduced A:P ratios in the rumen are associated with increased feed efficiency and reduced production of methane which has a global warming potential (GWP 100 years) of 28. Succinivibrionaceae growth in the rumen was previously suggested to reduce methane emissions as some members of this family utilise hydrogen, which is also utilised by methanogens for methanogenesis, to generate succinate which is converted to propionate. Relative abundance of OTU-S3004 showed a positive Spearman correlation with propionate (ρ = 0.41, P = <0.01) but not acetate in the liquid rumen fraction.
  • The distribution of runs of homozygosity and selection signatures in six commercial meat sheep breeds

    Purfield, Deirdre C; McParland, Sinead; Wall, Eamon; Berry, Donagh P (PLOS, 2017-05-02)
    Domestication and the subsequent selection of animals for either economic or morphological features can leave a variety of imprints on the genome of a population. Genomic regions subjected to high selective pressures often show reduced genetic diversity and frequent runs of homozygosity (ROH). Therefore, the objective of the present study was to use 42,182 autosomal SNPs to identify genomic regions in 3,191 sheep from six commercial breeds subjected to selection pressure and to quantify the genetic diversity within each breed using ROH. In addition, the historical effective population size of each breed was also estimated and, in conjunction with ROH, was used to elucidate the demographic history of the six breeds. ROH were common in the autosomes of animals in the present study, but the observed breed differences in patterns of ROH length and burden suggested differences in breed effective population size and recent management. ROH provided a sufficient predictor of the pedigree inbreeding coefficient, with an estimated correlation between both measures of 0.62. Genomic regions under putative selection were identified using two complementary algorithms; the fixation index and hapFLK. The identified regions under putative selection included candidate genes associated with skin pigmentation, body size and muscle formation; such characteristics are often sought after in modern-day breeding programs. These regions of selection frequently overlapped with high ROH regions both within and across breeds. Multiple yet uncharacterised genes also resided within putative regions of selection. This further substantiates the need for a more comprehensive annotation of the sheep genome as these uncharacterised genes may contribute to traits of interest in the animal sciences. Despite this, the regions identified as under putative selection in the current study provide an insight into the mechanisms leading to breed differentiation and genetic variation in meat production.
  • Effect of dietary restriction and subsequent re-alimentation on the transcriptional profile of bovine ruminal epithelium

    Keogh, Kate; Waters, Sinead M.; Cormican, Paul; Kelly, Alan K.; O'Shea, Emma; Kenny, David A. (PLOS, 2017-05-17)
    Compensatory growth (CG) is utilised worldwide in beef production systems as a management approach to reduce feed costs. However the underlying biology regulating the expression of CG remains to be fully elucidated. The objective of this study was to examine the effect of dietary restriction and subsequent re-alimentation induced CG on the global gene expression profile of ruminal epithelial papillae. Holstein Friesian bulls (n = 60) were assigned to one of two groups: restricted feed allowance (RES; n = 30) for 125 days (Period 1) followed by ad libitum access to feed for 55 days (Period 2) or (ii) ad libitum access to feed throughout (ADLIB; n = 30). At the end of each period, 15 animals from each treatment were slaughtered and rumen papillae harvested. mRNA was isolated from all papillae samples collected. cDNA libraries were then prepared and sequenced. Resultant reads were subsequently analysed bioinformatically and differentially expressed genes (DEGs) are defined as having a Benjamini-Hochberg P value of <0.05. During re-alimentation in Period 2, RES animals displayed CG, growing at 1.8 times the rate of their ADLIB contemporary animals in Period 2 (P < 0.001). At the end of Period 1, 64 DEGs were identified between RES and ADLIB, with only one DEG identified at the end of Period 2. When analysed within RES treatment (RES, Period 2 v Period 1), 411 DEGs were evident. Genes identified as differentially expressed in response to both dietary restriction and subsequent CG included those involved in processes such as cellular interactions and transport, protein folding and gene expression, as well as immune response. This study provides an insight into the molecular mechanisms underlying the expression of CG in rumen papillae of cattle; however the results suggest that the role of the ruminal epithelium in supporting overall animal CG may have declined by day 55 of re-alimentation.
  • Novel Graphical Analyses of Runs of Homozygosity among Species and Livestock Breeds

    Iacolina, Laura; Stronen, Astrid V.; Pertoldi, Cino; Tokarska, Małgorzata; Norgaard, Louise S.; Munoz, Joaquin; Kjaersgaard, Anders; Ruiz-Gonzalez, Aritz; Kaminski, Stanislaw; Purfield, Deirdre C (Hindawi, 2016)
    Runs of homozygosity (ROH), uninterrupted stretches of homozygous genotypes resulting from parents transmitting identical haplotypes to their offspring, have emerged as informative genome-wide estimates of autozygosity (inbreeding). We used genomic profiles based on 698 K single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from nine breeds of domestic cattle (Bos taurus) and the European bison (Bison bonasus) to investigate how ROH distributions can be compared within and among species. We focused on two length classes: 0.5–15 Mb to investigate ancient events and >15 Mb to address recent events (approximately three generations). For each length class, we chose a few chromosomes with a high number of ROH, calculated the percentage of times a SNP appeared in a ROH, and plotted the results. We selected areas with distinct patterns including regions where (1) all groups revealed an increase or decrease of ROH, (2) bison differed from cattle, (3) one cattle breed or groups of breeds differed (e.g., dairy versus meat cattle). Examination of these regions in the cattle genome showed genes potentially important for natural and human-induced selection, concerning, for example, meat and milk quality, metabolism, growth, and immune function. The comparative methodology presented here permits visual identification of regions of interest for selection, breeding programs, and conservation.
  • Stress and immunological response of heifers divergently ranked for residual feed intake following an adrenocorticotropic hormone challenge

    Kelly, A. K; Lawrence, P.; Earley, Bernadette; Kenny, David A.; McGee, Mark (Biomed Central, 2017-08-08)
    Background When an animal is exposed to a stressor, metabolic rate, energy consumption and utilisation increase primarily through activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Changes to partitioning of energy by an animal are likely to influence the efficiency with which it is utilised. Therefore, this study aimed to determine the physiological stress response to an exogenous adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) challenge in beef heifers divergently ranked on phenotypic residual feed intake (RFI). Results Data were collected on 34 Simmental weaning beef heifers the progeny of a well characterized and divergently bred RFI suckler beef herd. Residual feed intake was determined on each animal during the post-weaning stage over a 91-day feed intake measurement period during which they were individually offered adlibitum grass silage and 2 kg of concentrate per head once daily. The 12 highest [0.34 kg DM/d] and 12 lowest [−0.48 kg DM/d] ranking animals on RFI were selected for use in this study. For the physiological stress challenge heifers (mean age 605 ± 13 d; mean BW 518 ± 31.4 kg) were fitted aseptically with indwelling jugular catheters to facilitate intensive blood collection. The response of the adrenal cortex to a standardised dose of ACTH (1.98 IU/kg metabolic BW0.75) was examined. Serial blood samples were analysed for plasma cortisol, ACTH and haematology variables. Heifers differing in RFI did not differ (P = 0.59) in ACTH concentrations. Concentration of ACTH peaked (P < 0.001) in both RFI groups at 20 min post-ACTH administration, following which concentration declined to baseline levels by 150 min. Similarly, cortisol systemic profile peaked at 60 min and concentrations remained continuously elevated for 150 min. A RFI × time interaction was detected for cortisol concentrations (P = 0.06) with high RFI heifers had a greater cortisol response than Low RFI from 40 min to 150 min relative to ACTH administration. Cortisol response was positively associated with RFI status (r = 0.32; P < 0.01). No effect of RFI was evident for neutrophil, lymphocytes, monocyte, eosinophils and basophil count. Plasma red blood cell number (6.07 vs. 6.23; P = 0.02) and hematocrit percentage (23.2 vs. 24.5; P = 0.02) were greater for low than high RFI animals. Conclusions Evidence is provided that feed efficiency is associated with HPA axis function and susceptibility to stress, and responsiveness of the HPA axis is likely to contribute to appreciable variation in the efficiency feed utilisation of cattle.
  • Illumina MiSeq 16S amplicon sequence analysis of bovine respiratory disease associated bacteria in lung and mediastinal lymph node tissue

    Johnston, Dayle; Earley, Bernadette; Cormican, Paul; Murray, Gerard; Kenny, David A; Waters, Sinead M; McGee, Mark; Kelly, Alan K; McCabe, Matthew S (Biomed Central, 2017-05-02)
    Background Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) is caused by growth of single or multiple species of pathogenic bacteria in lung tissue following stress and/or viral infection. Next generation sequencing of 16S ribosomal RNA gene PCR amplicons (NGS 16S amplicon analysis) is a powerful culture-independent open reference method that has recently been used to increase understanding of BRD-associated bacteria in the upper respiratory tract of BRD cattle. However, it has not yet been used to examine the microbiome of the bovine lower respiratory tract. The objective of this study was to use NGS 16S amplicon analysis to identify bacteria in post-mortem lung and lymph node tissue samples harvested from fatal BRD cases and clinically healthy animals. Cranial lobe and corresponding mediastinal lymph node post-mortem tissue samples were collected from calves diagnosed as BRD cases by veterinary laboratory pathologists and from clinically healthy calves. NGS 16S amplicon libraries, targeting the V3-V4 region of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene were prepared and sequenced on an Illumina MiSeq. Quantitative insights into microbial ecology (QIIME) was used to determine operational taxonomic units (OTUs) which corresponded to the 16S rRNA gene sequences. Results Leptotrichiaceae, Mycoplasma, Pasteurellaceae, and Fusobacterium were the most abundant OTUs identified in the lungs and lymph nodes of the calves which died from BRD. Leptotrichiaceae, Fusobacterium, Mycoplasma, Trueperella and Bacteroides had greater relative abundances in post-mortem lung samples collected from fatal cases of BRD in dairy calves, compared with clinically healthy calves without lung lesions. Leptotrichiaceae, Mycoplasma and Pasteurellaceae showed higher relative abundances in post-mortem lymph node samples collected from fatal cases of BRD in dairy calves, compared with clinically healthy calves without lung lesions. Two Leptotrichiaceae sequence contigs were subsequently assembled from bacterial DNA-enriched shotgun sequences. Conclusions The microbiomes of the cranial lung lobe and mediastinal lymph node from calves which died from BRD and from clinically healthy H-F calves have been characterised. Contigs corresponding to the abundant Leptotrichiaceae OTU were sequenced and found not to be identical to any known bacterial genus. This suggests that we have identified a novel bacterial species associated with BRD.
  • International genetic evaluations for feed intake in dairy cattle through the collation of data from multiple sources

    Berry, Donagh P.; Coffey, M.P.; Pryce, J.E.; De Haas, Y.; Lovendahl, P.; Krattenmacher, N.; Crowley, J.J.; Wang, Z.; Spurlock, D.; Weigel, K.; MacDonald, K.; Veerkamp, R.F. (Elsevier for American Dairy Science Association, 2014-04-13)
    Feed represents a large proportion of the variable costs in dairy production systems. The omission of feed intake measures explicitly from national dairy cow breeding objectives is predominantly due to a lack of information from which to make selection decisions. However, individual cow feed intake data are available in different countries, mostly from research or nucleus herds. None of these data sets are sufficiently large enough on their own to generate accurate genetic evaluations. In the current study, we collate data from 10 populations in 9 countries and estimate genetic parameters for dry matter intake (DMI). A total of 224,174 test-day records from 10,068 parity 1 to 5 records of 6,957 cows were available, as well as records from 1,784 growing heifers. Random regression models were fit to the lactating cow test-day records and predicted feed intake at 70 d postcalving was extracted from these fitted profiles. The random regression model included a fixed polynomial regression for each lactation separately, as well as herd-year-season of calving and experimental treatment as fixed effects; random effects fit in the model included individual animal deviation from the fixed regression for each parity as well as mean herd-specific deviations from the fixed regression. Predicted DMI at 70 d postcalving was used as the phenotype for the subsequent genetic analyses undertaken using an animal repeatability model. Heritability estimates of predicted cow feed intake 70 d postcalving was 0.34 across the entire data set and varied, within population, from 0.08 to 0.52. Repeatability of feed intake across lactations was 0.66. Heritability of feed intake in the growing heifers was 0.20 to 0.34 in the 2 populations with heifer data. The genetic correlation between feed intake in lactating cows and growing heifers was 0.67. A combined pedigree and genomic relationship matrix was used to improve linkages between populations for the estimation of genetic correlations of DMI in lactating cows; genotype information was available on 5,429 of the animals. Populations were categorized as North America, grazing, other low input, and high input European Union. Albeit associated with large standard errors, genetic correlation estimates for DMI between populations varied from 0.14 to 0.84 but were stronger (0.76 to 0.84) between the populations representative of high-input production systems. Genetic correlations with the grazing populations were weak to moderate, varying from 0.14 to 0.57. Genetic evaluations for DMI can be undertaken using data collated from international populations; however, genotype-by-environment interactions with grazing production systems need to be considered.
  • Validation of national genetic evaluations for maternal beef cattle traits using Irish field data

    McHugh, Noirin; Cromie, A.R.; Evans, R.D.; Berry, Donagh P (American Society of Animal Science, 2014-11-24)
    Genetic evaluations provide information to aid in breeding decisions that increase long-term performance of animals and herds. However, to date no study has been undertaken to investigate the accuracy of the Irish maternal genetic evaluations in beef cattle. The objective, therefore, of this study was to quantify the relationship between phenotypic performance and measures of genetic merit for predominantly maternal-related traits in Irish beef cattle. The association between animal EBV for calving interval, age at first calving, and both direct and maternal weaning weight with the respective phenotypic performance was quantified using a fixed effects model; the expectation for the regression coefficient of phenotypic performance on EBV was one. The association between genetic merit for cow survival, perinatal mortality, calving assistance, and calving dystocia with the log of the odds of the respective trait was quantified using logistic regression. The association analyses were conducted using field data on up to 38,619 records from 5,236 herds. Age at first calving increased linearly by 0.32 ± 0.15 (P = 0.03) days per day increase in EBV for age at first calving. Calving interval increased by, on average, 0.58 ± 0.16 (P = 0.002) days per day increase in EBV for calving interval although the association differed by parity with a greater association in pluriparae. Weaning weight increased linearly by 1.74 ± 0.09 and 0.84 ± 0.16 kg (P < 0.001) per kilogram increase in EBV for direct and maternal weaning weight, respectively. The log of the odds of a cow surviving to next lactation increased linearly by 0.16 ± 0.03 (P < 0.001) per unit increase in EBV for cow survival. The log of the odds of an assisted calving or dystocia both increased linearly by 0.21 ± 0.01 and 0.24 ± 0.01, respectively, per unit increase in EBV for direct calving difficulty (P < 0.001). The log of the odds of a dead calf at birth increased linearly by 0.93 ± 0.13 (P < 0.001) per unit increase in EBV for calf mortality. Results from this study show that selection of breeding animals for favorable maternal genetic attributes will result in favorable improvements in performance and profitability.
  • Delaying pigs from the normal production flow is associated with health problems and poorer performance

    Calderon Díaz, Julia; Diana, Alessia; Boyle, Laura; Leonard, Finola C; McElroy, Máire; McGettrick, Shane; Moriarty, John; Garcia Manzanilla, Edgar (Biomed Central, 2017-07-05)
    Background Delaying pigs from advancing through the production stages could have a negative impact on their health and performance. The objective of this study was to investigate the possible implications of delaying pigs from the normal production flow on pig health and performance in a farrow-to-finish commercial farm with a self-declared All-In/All-Out (AIAO) management. Results Three flows of pigs were defined, flow 1 (i.e. pigs that followed the normal production flow; 8 weeks in the nursery stage, 4 weeks in the growing stage and 8 weeks in the finisher stage), flow 2 (i.e. pigs delayed 1 week from advancing to the next production stage) and flow 3 (i.e. pigs delayed >1 week from advancing to the next production stage). Flow 3 included higher proportions of pigs from first parity sows and of lighter birth weights. When the 3 flows were matched by parity and birth weight, pigs in flow 2 were 3.8 times more likely to be lame prior to slaughter compared with pigs in flow 1. Similarly, pigs in flow 3 were more likely to be lame prior to slaughter, 4.5 times more likely to present pleurisy, 3.3 times more like to present pericarditis and 4.3 times more likely to have their heart condemned at slaughter compared with pigs in flow 1. Additionally, carcasses from pigs in flow 3 were 10 kg lighter compared with carcasses from pigs in flow 1. Conclusion Delayed pigs were more affected by disease and were lighter at slaughter. Besides animal welfare issues, these findings could represent considerable economic loses for pig producers. In practice, delaying pigs from the normal production flow translates into higher feeding costs, increase number of days to slaughter and increased labour requirements reducing production efficiency for the pig operation. In farrow-to-finish farms an ‘all-forward’ policy (i.e. no pig is left behind from stage to stage and a split marketing approach is applied when sending pigs to slaughter) might be more easily adhered to.
  • Physiological and behavioural aspects of housing stress in cattle.

    Earley, Bernadette; Gupta, Sandeep; Murray, Margaret; Prendiville, Daniel J. (Teagasc, 2008-12-01)
    The effect of various space allowances on pituitary, adrenal, immune responses and performance was investigated in 72 Holstein x Friesian bulls.The effect of transporting bulls for 12-h by road previously housed for 96 days at three space allowances (1.2, 2.7, 4.2 m2 per bull) on adrenal, haematological, immune responses, body temperature and performance was investigated. The effect of repeated regrouping and relocation (R&R) on behaviour of steers was investigated. The effect of repeated regrouping and relocation (R&R) of cattle on hypothalamicpituitary- adrenal (HPA) axis, immune function, blood biochemical, hematological variables and ADG, was investigated.
  • Dairy cattle breeding objectives combining production and non-production traits for pasture based systems in Ireland.

    Berry, Donagh P.; Buckley, Frank; Dillon, Pat; Veerkamp, R.F. (Teagasc, 2005-11-01)
    The objectives of this study were: 1) to estimate genetic (co) variances among body condition score, body weight, milk production, linear type traits and fertility, and 2) to investigate the presence of genotype by environment interactions for milk production, body condition score, and body weight, in Irish grass based seasonal calving herds. Genetic parameters were estimated from a potential 8928 primiparous and multiparous Holstein-Friesian cows over two years (1999 and 2000). Heritability estimates for body condition score (BCS) and body weight (BW) were found to be moderate to high; estimates ranged from 0.27 to 0.51 for BCS, and from 0.39 to 0.61 for BW. Heritability estimates for BCS change and BW change at different stages of lactation were all less than 0.11. Heritability for the linear type traits varied from 0.11 to 0.43. Phenotypic and genetic correlations between BCS and BW at the same stage of lactation were all close to 0.50 indicating that approximately 25% of the genetic and phenotypic variation in BW may be attributed to differences in BCS. Genetic correlations between BCS and milk yield tended to be negative (-0.14 to –0.51) and genetic correlations between BW and milk yield were close to zero (-0.07 to 0.09). However, the genetic correlations between BW adjusted for differences in BCS were positive (0.15 to 0.39). Genetic correlations between BCS and the fertility traits investigated were all favourable, indicating that cows with a superior genetic merit for BCS are on average likely to be served sooner, receive less services and have higher pregnancy rates. The genetic correlations between linear type traits and milk yield indicate that selection for milk production has resulted in taller, deeper cows that tend to be more angular and have less body condition. Genetically these cows are predisposed to inferior reproductive efficiency. Moderate genetic correlations were found between some of the linear type traits investigated and somatic cell count. A comparison of BCS, as recorded by Teagasc personnel (scale 1-5) and Holstein herd-book classifiers (scale 1-9) indicated consistency between the two sources. Phenotypic and genetic correlations of 0.54 and 0.86, respectively, were observed between the two measurement sources on the same animals. Genotype by environment interactions, were found for milk yield across different silage quality environments, and for BCS across different herd-year milk yield, concentrate, grazing severity and silage quality environments.
  • The effect of abrupt weaning of suckler calves on the plasma concentrations of cortisol, catecholamines, leukocyte, acute-phase proteins and in vitro interferon-gamma production.

    Hickey, Mary-Clare; Drennan, Michael J; Earley, Bernadette (Teagasc, 2005-12-01)
    The objective of this study was to examine the effect of abrupt weaning (inclusive of social group disruption and maternal separation) on the physiological mediators of stress and measures of immune function. Thirty-eight male and 38 female continental calves were habituated to handling for two weeks prior to bleeding. Calves were blocked on sex, weight and breed of dam and randomly assigned, within block, to either a control (cows remain with calves) or abruptly weaned group (calves removed from cows). Animals were separated into the respective treatment groups at weaning (0 h). Calves were bled at – 168 h, 6 h (males only), 24 h, 48 h and 168 h post weaning. At each sampling time an observer scored the behavioural reaction of calves to sampling. Blood samples were analysed for cortisol, catecholamine concentrations (not sampled at –168 h) and in vitro interferon-gamma production, neutrophil :lymphocyte ratio and acute phase protein concentrations. All continuous data were analysed using a split-plot ANOVA, except that collected at 6 h, which was analysed using a single factor ANOVA model. The effects of weaning, calf sex and time and respective interactions were described. Disruption of the established social groups at 0 h, increased (p<0.001) the plasma cortisol concentration and neutrophil: lymphocyte ratio and reduced the leukocyte concentration (p<0.001) and the in vitro interferon-gamma response to the mitogen concanavalin-A (p<0.001) and keyhole limpet haemocyanin (p<0.001) for weaned and control animals, when compared with –168h. Plasma adrenaline and noradrenaline concentrations were not affected by group disruption. There was no effect of weaning or sex on calf behavioural reaction to handling during blood sampling. Plasma cortisol and adrenaline concentrations were not affected by weaning or sex. Plasma noradrenaline concentration was influenced by weaning x sex (p<0.05) and time x sex (p<0.05). The response increased for male calves with weaning and increased with each sampling time post weaning. For heifers the response was not affected by weaning and plasma concentrations decreased at 168 h post weaning. There was no effect of weaning or sex on leukocyte concentration. The neutrophils : lymphocyte ration increased post weaning (p<0.01) and was affected by sex (p<0.05). Weaning decreased (p<0.05) the in vitro interferon-gamma response to the antigen KLH. There was a time x weaning x sex (p<0.05) interaction for fibrinogen concentration but no effect of treatment on haptoglobin concentration. Abrupt weaning increased plasma cortisol and nor-adrenaline concentrations, which was accompanied by attenuation of in vitro interferon gamma production to novel mitogen and antigen complexes up to 7 days post weaning.
  • Horizontal transmission of Escherichia coli O157:H7 during cattle housing, survival kinetics in feces and water of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and characterisation of E. coli O157:H7 isolates from cattle faeces and a feedlot environment.

    Scott, Lourda; McGee, Philip; Sheridan, Jim; Earley, Bernadette; Leonard, Nola (Teagasc, 2005-12-01)
    Ruminant livestock, particularly cattle, are considered the primary reservoir of E. coli O157:H7. This study examined the transmission of E. coli O157:H7 within groups of cattle during winter housing. Holstein Friesian steers were grouped in 6 pens of 5 animals. An animal inoculated with, and proven to be shedding a marked strain of E. coli O157:H7 was introduced into each pen. Fecal (rectal swabs) and hide samples (900cm2 right rump) were taken from the thirty six animals throughout the study. Water, feed and gate/partition samples from each pen were also examined. Within 24h of introducing the inoculated animals into the pens, samples collected from the drinking water, pen barriers and animal hides were positive for the pathogen. Within 48h, the hides of 20 of 30 (66%) cohort animals from the 6 pens were contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. The first positive fecal samples from the non-inoculated cohort animals were detected three days after the introduction of the inoculated steers. Over the 23 days of the study 15 of 30 cohort animals shed the marked E. coli O157:H7 strain in their feces on at least one occasion. Animal behavior in the pens was monitored over a 12h period using CCTV cameras. The camera footage showed an average of 13 instances of animal grooming in each pen per hour. The study suggests that transmission of E. coli O157:H7 between animals may occur following ingestion of the pathogen at low levels, and that animal hide may be an important source of transmission.
  • The effect of Holstein-Friesian genotype and feeding system on selected performance parameters of dairy cows on grass-based systems of milk production in Ireland.

    Dillon, Pat; O'Connor, P.; McCarthy, S.; Shalloo, Laurence; Linnane, M.; Berry, Donagh P.; Buckley, Frank; Mee, John F; Horan, Brendan (Teagasc, 2006-01-01)
    The overall objective of this project was to assess, the effect of strain of Holstein-Friesian dairy cow, pasture-based feed system (FS) and their interaction on animal performance in terms of milk productivity and lactation profile, body weight (BW), body condition score (BCS), feed intake and energy balance (EB), reproductive performance and overall economic profitability.
  • Evaluation of the Progeny of Beef Sires Differing in Genetic Merit

    Keane, Michael G.; Diskin, Michael G. (Teagasc, 2005-11-01)
    The objectives of the project were (i) to compare progeny of bulls of high and low growth genetic index, for growth, feed intake, slaughter traits and carcass traits, (ii) to partition the extra live weight of progeny of high growth index bulls into carcass and non-carcass parts, and (iii) to partition any extra carcass weight of progeny from high growth index bulls into its component fat, muscle and bone fractions.

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