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 mechanistic model for electricity consumption on dairy farms: Definition, validation, and demonstration

    Upton, John; Murphy, Michael D.; Shalloo, Laurence; Groot Koerkamp, Peter W.G.; De Boer, Imke J.M.; INTERREG IVB North-West Europe (Elsevier, 2014-06-07)
    Our objective was to define and demonstrate a mechanistic model that enables dairy farmers to explore the impact of a technical or managerial innovation on electricity consumption, associated CO2 emissions, and electricity costs. We, therefore, (1) defined a model for electricity consumption on dairy farms (MECD) capable of simulating total electricity consumption along with related CO2 emissions and electricity costs on dairy farms on a monthly basis; (2) validated the MECD using empirical data of 1 yr on commercial spring calving, grass-based dairy farms with 45, 88, and 195 milking cows; and (3) demonstrated the functionality of the model by applying 2 electricity tariffs to the electricity consumption data and examining the effect on total dairy farm electricity costs. The MECD was developed using a mechanistic modeling approach and required the key inputs of milk production, cow number, and details relating to the milk-cooling system, milking machine system, water-heating system, lighting systems, water pump systems, and the winter housing facilities as well as details relating to the management of the farm (e.g., season of calving). Model validation showed an overall relative prediction error (RPE) of less than 10% for total electricity consumption. More than 87% of the mean square prediction error of total electricity consumption was accounted for by random variation. The RPE values of the milk-cooling systems, water-heating systems, and milking machine systems were less than 20%. The RPE values for automatic scraper systems, lighting systems, and water pump systems varied from 18 to 113%, indicating a poor prediction for these metrics. However, automatic scrapers, lighting, and water pumps made up only 14% of total electricity consumption across all farms, reducing the overall impact of these poor predictions. Demonstration of the model showed that total farm electricity costs increased by between 29 and 38% by moving from a day and night tariff to a flat tariff.
  • A national methodology to quantify the diet of grazing dairy cows

    O'Brien, Donal; Moran, Brian; Shalloo, Laurence (Elsevier, 2018-07-04)
    The unique rumen of dairy cows allows them to digest fibrous forages and feedstuffs. Surprisingly, to date few attempts have been made to develop national methods to gain an understanding on the make-up of a dairy cow's diet, despite the importance of milk production. Consumer interest is growing in purchasing milk based on the composition of the cows' diet and the time they spend grazing. The goal of this research was to develop such a methodology using the national farm survey of Ireland as a data source. The analysis was completed for a 3-yr period from 2013 to 2015 on a nationally representative sample of 275 to 318 dairy farms. Trained auditors carried out economic surveys on farms 3 to 4 times per annum. The auditors collected important additional information necessary to estimate the diet of cows including the length of the grazing season, monthly concentrate feeding, type of forage(s) conserved, and milk production. Annual cow intakes were calculated to meet net energy requirements for production, maintenance, activity, pregnancy, growth, and live weight change using survey data and published literature. Our analysis showed that the average annual cow feed intake on a fresh matter basis ranged from 22.7 t in 2013 to 24.8 t in 2015 and from 4.8 to 5 t on a dry matter basis for the same period. Forage, particularly pasture, was the largest component of the Irish cow diet, typically accounting for 96% of the diet on a fresh matter basis and 82% of dry matter intake over the 3 yr. Within the cows' forage diet, grazed pasture was the dominant component and on average contributed 74 to 77% to the average annual cow fresh matter diet over the period. The proportion of pasture in the annual cow diet as fed was also identified as a good indicator of the time cows spend grazing (e.g., coefficient of determination = 0.85). Monthly, forage was typically the main component of the cow diet, but the average contribution of concentrate was substantial for the early spring months of January and February (30 to 35% of dry matter intake). Grazed pasture was the dominant source of forage from March to October and usually contributed 95 to 97% of the diet as fed in the summer period. Overall, the national farm survey from 2013 to 2015 shows that Irish dairy farms are very reliant on forage, particularly pasture, regardless of whether it is reported on a dry matter basis or as fed. There is potential to replicate this methodology in any regions or nations where representative farm surveys are conducted.
  • An observational study using blood gas analysis to assess neonatal calf diarrhea and subsequent recovery with a European Commission-compliant oral electrolyte solution

    Sayers, Riona; Kennedy, Aideen E.; Krump, Lea; Sayers, Gearoid; Kennedy, Emer; Epsilion Ltd.; IV20151256 (American Dairy Science Association, 2016-04-06)
    An observational study was conducted on dairy calves (51 healthy, 31 with neonatal diarrhea) during outbreaks of diarrhea on 4 dairy farms. Clinical assessment scores (CAS) were assigned to each healthy and diarrheic calf [from 0 (healthy) to 4 (marked illness)]. Blood gas analysis [pH, base excess (BE), Na+, K+, Ca2+, Cl−, glucose, total hemoglobin, standard HCO3−, strong ion difference (SID), and anion gap (AG)] was completed for each calf. Repeated measurements were taken in healthy animals, and pre- and postintervention measurements were taken for diarrheic calves. The mean CAS of diarrheic calves was 1.7, with 51, 30, 17, and 2% of calves scoring 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively. The mean value for blood pH, BE, AG, and SID was 7.26, −4.93 mM, 16.3 mM, and 38.59 mM, respectively. Calves were administered an oral rehydration and buffering solution (ORBS; Vitalife for Calves, Epsilion Ltd., Cork, Ireland) and reassessed. The mean CAS decreased to 0.38 (65% of calves scored 0 and 35% scored 1) at 6 to 18 h posttreatment and to 0.03 (98% of calves scored 0 and 2% scored 1) within 24 to 48 h. Significant increases in mean value for pH, BE, HCO3−, Na+, and SID, and significant decreases in AG, K+, Ca2+, and total hemoglobin were recorded posttreatment. The correlation estimates indicated that pH, HCO3−, and BE were strongly correlated with CAS, with values exceeding 0.60 in all cases. Administration of an ORBS with a high SID and bicarbonate buffer demonstrated rapid recovery from a diarrheic episode in dairy calves.
  • Association between somatic cell count during the first lactation and the cumulative milk yield of cows in Irish dairy herds

    McCoy, Finola; Archer, Simon; Wapenaar, Wendela; Green, Martin J.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier, 2014-01-30)
    Reduced potential milk yield is an important component of mastitis costs in dairy cows. The first aim of this study was to assess associations between somatic cell count (SCC) during the first lactation, and cumulative milk yield over the first lactation and subsequent lifetime of cows in Irish dairy herds. The second aim was to assess the association between SCC at 5 to 30 d in milk during parity 1 (SCC1), and SCC over the entire first lactation for cows in Irish dairy herds. The data set studied included records from 51,483 cows in 5,900 herds. Somatic cell count throughout the first lactation was summarized using the geometric mean and variance of SCC. Data were analyzed using linear models that included random effects to account for the lack of independence between observations, and herd-level variation in coefficients. Models were developed in a Bayesian framework and parameters were estimated from 10,000 Markov chain Monte Carlo simulations. The final models were a good fit to the data. A 1-unit increase in mean natural logarithm SCC over the first lactation was associated with a median decrease in first lactation and lifetime milk yield of 135 and 1,663 kg, respectively. A 1-unit increase in the variance of natural logarithm SCC over the first lactation was associated with a median decrease in lifetime milk yield of 719 kg. To demonstrate the context of lifetime milk yield results, microsimulation was used to model the trajectory of individual cows and evaluate the expected outcomes for particular changes in herd-level geometric mean SCC over the first lactation. A 75% certainty of savings of at least €199/heifer in the herd was detected if herd-level geometric mean SCC over the first lactation was reduced from ≥120,000 to ≤72,000 cells/mL. The association between SCC1 and SCC over the remainder of the first lactation was highly herd dependent, indicating that control measures for heifer mastitis should be preferentially targeted on an individual-herd basis toward either the pre- and peripartum period, or the lactating period, to optimize the lifetime milk yield of dairy cows.
  • Association between somatic cell count early in the first lactation and the longevity of Irish dairy cows

    Archer, Simon; McCoy, Finola; Wapenaar, Wendela; Green, Martin J.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier, 2013-03-21)
    Reduced longevity of cows is an important component of mastitis costs, and increased somatic cell count (SCC) early in the first lactation has been reported to increase culling risk throughout the first lactation. Generally, cows must survive beyond the first lactation to break even on their rearing costs. The aim of this research was to assess the association between SCC of primiparous cows at 5 to 30 days in milk (SCC1), and survival over a 5-y period for cows in Irish dairy herds. The data set used for model development was based on 147,458 test day records from 7,537 cows in 812 herds. Cows were censored at their last recording if identified at a later date in other herds or if recorded at the last available test date for their herd, otherwise, date of disposal was taken to be at the last test date for each cow. Survival time was calculated as the number of days between the dates of first calving and the last recording, which was split into 50-d intervals. Data were analyzed in discrete time logistic survival models that accounted for clustering of 50-d intervals within cows, and cows within herds. Models were fitted in a Bayesian framework using Markov chain Monte Carlo simulations. Model fit was assessed by comparison of posterior predictions to the observed disposal risk for cows aggregated by parameters in the model. Model usefulness was assessed by cross validation in a separate data set, which contained 144,113 records from 7,353 cows in 808 herds, and posterior predictions were compared with the observed disposal risk for cows aggregated by parameters of biological importance. Disposal odds increased by a factor of 5% per unit increase in ln SCC1. Despite this, posterior predictive distributions revealed that the probability of reducing replacement costs by >€10 per heifer calved, through decreasing the herd level prevalence of cows with SCC1 ≥400,000 cells/mL (from an initial prevalence of ≥20 to <10%) only exceeded 50% for less than 1 in 5 Irish herds. These results indicate that the effect of a reduction in the prevalence of cows with SCC1 ≥400,000 cells/mL on replacement costs alone for most Irish dairy herds is small, and future research should investigate other potential losses, such as the effect of SCC1 on lifetime milk yield.
  • Association between somatic cell count early in the first lactation and the lifetime milk yield of cows in Irish dairy herds

    Archer, Simon; McCoy, Finola; Wapenaar, Wendela; Green, Martin J.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier, 2013-03-14)
    Change in lifetime milk yield is an important component of the cost of diseases in dairy cows. Knowledge of the likelihood and scale of potential savings through disease prevention measures is important to evaluate how much expenditure on control measures is rational. The aim of this study was to assess the association between somatic cell count (SCC) at 5 to 30 d in milk during parity 1 (SCC1), and lifetime milk yield for cows in Irish dairy herds. The data set studied included records from 53,652 cows in 5,922 Irish herds. This was split into 2 samples of 2,500 and 3,422 herds at random. Linear models with lifetime milk yield and first-lactation milk yield as the outcomes and random effects to account for variation between herds were fitted to the data for the first sample of herds; data for the second sample were used for cross-validation. The models were developed in a Bayesian framework to include all uncertainty in posterior predictions and parameters were estimated from 10,000 Markov chain Monte Carlo simulations. The final model was a good fit to the data and appeared generalizable to other Irish herds. A unit increase in the natural logarithm of SCC1 was associated with a median decrease in lifetime milk yield of 864 kg, and a median decrease in first-lactation milk yield of 105 kg. To clarify the meaning of the results in context, microsimulation was used to model the trajectory of individual cows, and evaluate the expected outcomes for particular changes in the herd-level prevalence of cows with SCC1 ≥400,000 cells/mL. Differences in mean lifetime milk yield associated with these changes were multiplied by an estimated gross margin for each cow to give the potential difference in milk revenue. Results were presented as probabilities of savings; for example, a 75% probability of savings of at least €97 or €115/heifer calved into the herd existed if the prevalence of cows with SCC1 ≥400,000 cells/mL was reduced from ≥20 to <10 or <5%, respectively, and at least €71/heifer calved into the herd if the prevalence of cows with SCC1 ≥400,000 cells/mL was reduced from ≥10 to <5%. The results indicate large differences in lifetime milk yield, depending on SCC early in the first lactation and the findings can be used to assess where specific interventions to control heifer mastitis prepartum are likely to be cost effective.
  • Association of season and herd size with somatic cell count for cows in Irish, English, and Welsh dairy herds

    Archer, Simon; McCoy, Finola; Wapenaar, Wendela; Green, Martin J.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier, 2013-01-12)
    The aims of this study were to describe associations of time of year, and herd size with cow somatic cell count (SCC) for Irish, English, and Welsh dairy herds. Random samples of 497 and 493 Irish herds, and two samples of 200 English and Welsh (UK) herds were selected. Random effects models for the natural logarithm of individual cow test day SCC were developed using data from herds in one sub-dataset from each country. Data from the second sub-datasets were used for cross validation. Baseline model results showed that geometric mean cow SCC (GSCC) in Irish herds was highest from February to August, and ranged from 111,000 cells/mL in May to 61,000 cells/mL in October. For cows in UK herds, GSCC ranged from 84,000 cells/mL in February and June, to 66,000 cells/mL in October. The results highlight the importance of monitoring cow SCC during spring and summer despite low bulk milk SCC at this time for Irish herds. GSCC was lowest in Irish herds of up to 130 cows (63,000 cells/mL), and increased for larger herds, reaching 68,000 cells/mL in herds of up to 300 cows. GSCC in UK herds was lowest for herds of 130–180 cows (60,000 cells/mL) and increased to 63,000 cells/mL in herds of 30 cows, and 68,000 cells/mL in herds of 300 cows. Importantly, these results suggest expansion may be associated with increased cow SCC, highlighting the importance of appropriate management, to benefit from potential economies of scale, in terms of udder health.
  • Associations between paratuberculosis ELISA results and test-day records of cows enrolled in the Irish Johne's Disease Control Program

    Botaro, Bruno G.; Ruelle, Elodie; More, Simon J; Strain, Sam; Graham, David A.; O'Flaherty, Joe; Shalloo, Laurence; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Elsevier, 2017-07-12)
    The effect of the Mycobacterium avium ssp. paratuberculosis (MAP) ELISA status on test-day milk performance of cows from Irish herds enrolled in the pilot national voluntary Johne's disease control program during 2013 to 2015 was estimated. A data set comprising 92,854 cows and 592,623 complete test-day records distributed across 1,700 herds was used in this study. The resulting ELISA outcome (negative, inconclusive, and positive) of each cow within each year of the program was used to allocate the cow into different scenarios representing the MAP status. At MAPscenario1, all cows testing ELISA nonnegative (i.e., inconclusive and positive) were assigned a MAP-positive status; at MAPscenario2 only cows testing ELISA-positive were assigned a MAP-positive status; at MAPscenario3 only cows testing ELISA nonnegative (inconclusive or positive) and gathered exclusively from herds where at least 2 further ELISA nonnegative (inconclusive or positive) cows were found were assigned a MAP-positive status; at MAPscenario4 only cows testing ELISA-positive that were gathered exclusively from herds where at least 2 further ELISA-positive cows were found were assigned a MAP-positive status. Milk outputs based on test-day records were standardized for fat and protein contents (SMY) and the effect of MAP ELISA status on the SMY was estimated by a linear mixed effects model structure. The SMY mean difference recorded at test day between cows with a MAP-positive status and those with a MAP-negative status within MAPscenario1 was estimated at −0.182 kg/test day; the mean difference was −0.297 kg/test day for MAPscenario2; for MAPscenario3 mean difference between MAP-positive status and MAP test-negative cows was −0.209 kg/test day, and for MAPscenario4, the difference was −0.326 kg/test day.
  • Symposium review: Intramammary infections—Major pathogens and strain-associated complexity

    Keane, Orla M (Elsevier, 2019-03-01)
    Intramammary infection (IMI) is one of the most costly diseases to the dairy industry. It is primarily due to bacterial infection and the major intramammary pathogens include Escherichia coli, Streptococcus uberis, and Staphylococcus aureus. The severity and outcome of IMI is dependent on several host factors including innate host resistance, energy balance, immune status, parity, and stage of lactation. Additionally, the infecting organism can influence the host immune response and progression of disease. It is increasingly recognized that not only the infecting pathogen species, but also the strain, can affect the transmission, severity, and outcome of IMI. For each of 3 major IMI-associated pathogens, S. aureus, Strep. uberis, and E. coli, specific strains have been identified that are adapted to the intramammary environment. Strain-dependent variation in the host immune response to infection has also been reported. The diversity of strains associated with IMI must be considered if vaccines effective against the full repertoire of mammary pathogenic strains are to be developed. Although important advances have been made recently in understanding the molecular mechanism underpinning strain-specific virulence, further research is required to fully elucidate the cellular and molecular pathogenesis of mammary adapted strains and the role of the strain in influencing the pathophysiology of infection. Improved understanding of molecular pathogenesis of strains associated with bovine IMI will contribute to the development of new control strategies, therapies, and vaccines. The development of enabling technologies such as pathogenomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics can facilitate system-level studies of strain-specific molecular pathogenesis and the identification of key mediators of host-pathogen interactions.
  • Effect of a combination phytase and carbohydrolase enzyme supplement on growth performance and bone mineralization of pigs from six weeks to slaughter at 105 kg

    Lawlor, Peadar G; Cozannet, Pierre; Ryan, Willie F.; Lynch, P.B. (Elsevier, 2019-03-07)
    An experiment was conducted to assess the effect of a combination of carbohydrolase (from Talaromyces Versatilis) and 6-phytase (from Schizosaccharomyces Pombe) multi enzyme complex (mec; Rovabio Max®, Adisseo, France) on the growth and bone mineralization of pigs fed maize-wheat-soybean meal diets. Pigs (n = 384) were selected at 28 days of age, penned in same gender pairs and fed a common acclimatization diet meeting animal requirements for 14 days. Four experimental diets were formulated for each of 4 growth stages from 42 days of age to slaughter at 147 days: 1) Positive control (PC), formulated to meet nutritional requirements; 2) Negative control 1 (NC1; DE × 0.985, CP × 0.985, −1.0 g Ca/kg and −1.2 g dig P/kg), 3) Negative control 2 (NC2; DE × 0.975, CP × 0.975, −1.0 g Ca/kg and −1.2 g dig P/kg) and 4) Negative control 3 (NC3; DE × 0.975, CP × 0.975, −1.5 g Ca /kg and −1.7 g dig P/kg). Negative control diets were also supplemented with mec resulting in 7 experimental treatments. Feed disappearance, wastage and individual pig live weight (LW) were recorded at the beginning and end of each growth phase. Reducing in dietary constituents (CP, DE, P and Ca) compared to PC reduced LW (P < 0.001), average daily feed intake (ADFI; P < 0.01), and average daily gain (ADG; P < 0.001) throughout the trial. Addition of mec to NC diets increased LW (P < 0.001), ADFI (P < 0.001) and ADG (P < 0.001) up to slaughter and improved feed conversion ratio (FCR; P < 0.001) to day 112 of the trial. There were increases in area bone mineral density (aBMD) of the foot from day 77 onwards (P < 0.01) and metacarpal aBMD (P < 0.01) from day 112 onwards when mec was added to NC diets although no effect (P > 0.05) on metacarpal Ca or P percentages was found. It was concluded that supplementing carbohydrolase and phytase to low nutrient density diets can return the growth and FCR of the pigs as well as metacarpal and foot aBMD to the levels reached by pigs fed diets meeting nutrient recommendations.
  • RNA-seq analysis of bovine adipose tissue in heifers fed diets differing in energy and protein content

    Wærp, Hilde K. L.; Waters, Sinead M.; McCabe, Matthew S.; Cormican, Paul; Salte, Ragnar; The Research Council of Norway; TINE SA Norwegian dairies; Felleskjøpet agricultural cooperative; Animalia AS; 199448 (Public Library of Science, 2018-09-20)
    Adipose tissue is no longer considered a mere energy reserve, but a metabolically and hormonally active organ strongly associated with the regulation of whole-body metabolism. Knowledge of adipose metabolic regulatory function is of great importance in cattle management, as it affects the efficiency and manner with which an animal converts feedstuff to milk, meat and fat. However, the molecular mechanisms regulating metabolism in bovine adipose tissue are still not fully elucidated. The emergence of next-generation sequencing technologies has facilitated the analysis of metabolic function and regulation at the global gene expression level. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of diets differing in protein and energy density level on gene expression in adipose tissue of growing replacement dairy heifers using next-generation RNA sequencing (RNAseq). Norwegian Red heifers were fed either a high- or low-protein concentrate (HP/LP) and a high- or low-energy roughage (HE/LE) diet from 3 months of age until confirmed pregnancy to give four treatments (viz, HPHE, HPLE, LPHE, LPLE) with different growth profiles. Subcutaneous adipose tissue sampled at 12 months of age was analyzed for gene expression differences using RNAseq. The largest difference in gene expression was found between LPHE and LPLE heifers, for which 1092 genes were significantly differentially expressed, representing an up-regulation of mitochondrial function, lipid, carbohydrate and amino acid metabolism as well as changes in the antioxidant system in adipose tissue of LPHE heifers. Differences between HPHE and HPLE heifers were much smaller, and dominated by genes representing NAD biosynthesis, as was the significantly differentially expressed genes (DEG) common to both HE-LE contrasts. Differences between HP and LP groups within each energy treatment were minimal. This study emphasizes the importance of transcriptional regulation of adipose tissue energy metabolism, and identifies candidate genes for further studies on early-stage obesity and glucose load in dairy cattle.
  • Effects of fertiliser nitrogen rate to spring grass on apparent digestibility, nitrogen balance, ruminal fermentation and microbial nitrogen production in beef cattle and in vitro rumen fermentation and methane output

    O'Connor, Alan; Moloney, Aidan P.; O'Kiely, Padraig; Boland, T. M.; McGee, Mark; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 11/S/105 (Elsevier, 2019-06-06)
    The effects of two fertiliser nitrogen (N) application rates - 15 (LN) or 80 (HN) kg N/ha - to Lolium perenne dominant swards in spring, on grass dry matter (DM) intake, digestion, rumen fermentation, microbial N production and N-balance in beef cattle, and in vitro fermentation and methane production were studied. Sixteen Charolais steers with a mean live weight (s.d.) of 475 (18.4) kg, were used in a completely randomised block design experiment and offered zero-grazed grass harvested 21-d post N application. The same grass was incubated in an eight-vessel RUSITEC in a completely randomised block design experiment. The HN treatment had a 540 kg/ha higher grass DM yield, and a 20 g/kg DM higher crude protein (CP) concentration compared to LN. There was no difference (P > 0.05) in DM intake, or in vivo DM, organic matter (OM) and N digestibility between treatments. Rumen fermentation variables pH, lactic acid, ammonia (NH3) and total volatile fatty acid (VFA) concentration were similar (P > 0.05) for both treatments. Nitrogen intake was 19 g/d higher (P < 0.05) for HN compared to LN. Total and urine N loss was 16 and 14 g/d greater (P < 0.05), respectively, for HN compared to LN, but faecal N loss did not differ (P > 0.05) between treatments. The quantity of N retained and N-use efficiency did not differ (P > 0.05) between LN and HN. Plasma urea concentration was 1 mmol/L greater (P < 0.05) for HN compared to LN. Estimated microbial N production was greater (P < 0.05) for HN compared to LN. In vitro NH3 concentrations were higher (P < 0.05) for HN compared to LN, whereas in vitro rumen pH, lactic acid and VFA concentrations and molar proportions did not differ (P > 0.05) between HN and LN. In vitro methane and total gas output were not different (P > 0.05) between treatments. Reducing fertiliser N application rate to grass in spring reduced total and urinary N excretion, which has environmental benefits, with no effects on in vitro methane output.
  • How herd best linear unbiased estimates affect the progress achievable from gains in additive and nonadditive genetic merit

    Dunne, F. L.; McParland, Sinead; Kelleher, Margaret M.; Walsh, S.W.; Berry, Donagh P.; Science Foundation Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 16/RC/3835 (Elsevier, 2019-04-10)
    Sustainable dairy cow performance relies on coevolution in the development of breeding and management strategies. Tailoring breeding programs to herd performance metrics facilitates improved responses to breeding decisions. Although herd-level raw metrics on performance are useful, implicitly included within such statistics is the mean herd genetic merit. The objective of the present study was to quantify the expected response from selection decisions on additive and nonadditive merit by herd performance metrics independent of herd mean genetic merit. Performance traits considered in the present study were age at first calving, milk yield, calving to first service, number of services, calving interval, and survival. Herd-level best linear unbiased estimates (BLUE) for each performance trait were available on a maximum of 1,059 herds, stratified as best, average, and worst for each performance trait separately. The analyses performed included (1) the estimation of (co)variance for each trait in the 3 BLUE environments and (2) the regression of cow-level phenotypic performance on either the respective estimated breeding value (EBV) or the heterosis coefficient of the cow. A fundamental assumption of genetic evaluations is that 1 unit change in EBV equates to a 1 unit change in the respective phenotype; results from the present study, however, suggest that the realization of the change in phenotypic performance is largely dependent on the herd BLUE for that trait. Herds achieving more yield, on average, than expected from their mean genetic merit, had a 20% greater response to changes in EBV as well as 43% greater genetic standard deviation relative to herds within the worst BLUE for milk yield. Conversely, phenotypic performance in fertility traits (with the exception of calving to first service) tended to have a greater response to selection as well as a greater additive genetic standard deviation within the respective worst herd BLUE environments; this is suggested to be due to animals performing under more challenging environments leading to larger achievable gains. The attempts to exploit nonadditive genetic effects such as heterosis are often the basis of promoting cross-breeding, yet the results from the present study suggest that improvements in phenotypic performance is largely dependent on the environment. The largest gains due to heterotic effects tended to be within the most stressful (i.e., worst) BLUE environment for all traits, thus suggesting the heterosis effects can be beneficial in mitigating against poorer environments.
  • Effect of introducing weather parameters on the accuracy of milk production forecast models

    Zhang, Fan; Upton, John; Shalloo, Laurence; Shine, Philip; Murphy, Michael D. (Elsevier, 2019-04-13)
    The objective of this study was to analyze the effect of adding meteorological data to the training process of two milk production forecast models. The two models chosen were the nonlinear auto-regressive model with exogenous input (NARX) and the multiple linear regression (MLR) model. The accuracy of these models were assessed using seven different combinations of precipitation, sunshine hours and soil temperature as additional model training inputs. Lactation data (daily milk yield and days in milk) from 39 pasture-based Holstein-Friesian Irish dairy cows were selected to compare to the model outputs from a central database. The models were trained using historical milk production data from three lactation cycles and were employed to predict the total daily milk yield of a fourth lactation cycle for each individual cow over short (10-day), medium (30-day) and long-term (305-day) forecast horizons. The NARX model was found to provide a greater prediction accuracy when compared to the MLR model when predicting annual individual cow milk yield (kg), with R2 values greater than 0.7 for 95.5% and 14.7% of total predictions, respectively. The results showed that the introduction of sunshine hours, precipitation and soil temperature data improved the prediction accuracy of individual cow milk prediction for the NARX model in the short, medium and long-term forecast horizons. Sunshine hours was shown to have the largest impact on milk production with an improvement of forecast accuracy observed in 60% and 70% of all predictions (for all 39 test cows from both groups). However, the overall improvement in accuracy was small with a maximum forecast error reduction of 4.3%. Thus, the utilization of meteorological parameters in milk production forecasting did not have a substantial impact on forecast accuracy.
  • Social network properties predict chronic aggression in commercial pig systems

    Foister, Simone; Doeschl-Wilson, Andrea; Roehe, Rainer; Arnott, Gareth; Boyle, Laura; Turner, Simon; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Scottish Government; 2015004 (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2018-10-04)
    Post-mixing aggression in pigs is a harmful and costly behaviour which negatively impacts both animal welfare and farm efficiency. There is vast unexplained variation in the amount of acute and chronic aggression that dyadic behaviours do not fully explain. This study hypothesised that certain pen-level network properties may improve prediction of lesion outcomes due to the incorporation of indirect social interactions that are not captured by dyadic traits. Utilising current SNA theory, we investigate whether pen-level network properties affect the number of aggression-related injuries at 24 hours and 3 weeks post-mixing (24hr-PM and 3wk-PM). Furthermore we compare the predictive value of network properties to conventional dyadic traits. A total of 78 pens were video recorded for 24hr post-mixing. Each aggressive interaction that occurred during this time period was used to construct the pen-level networks. The relationships between network properties at 24hr and the pen level injuries at 24hr-PM and 3wk-PM were analysed using mixed models and verified using permutation tests. The results revealed that network properties at 24hr could predict long term aggression (3wk-PM) better than dyadic traits. Specifically, large clique formation in the first 24hr-PM predicted fewer injuries at 3wk-PM and high betweenness centralisation at 24hr-PM predicted increased rates of injury at 3wk-PM. This study demonstrates that network properties present during the first 24hr-PM have predictive value for chronic aggression, and have potential to allow identification and intervention for at risk groups.
  • The genetic architecture of milk ELISA scores as an indicator of Johne's disease (paratuberculosis) in dairy cattle

    Brito, Luiz F.; Mallikarjunappa, Sanjay; Sargolzaei, Mehdi; Koeck, Astrid; Chesnais, Jacques; Schenkel, Flavio S.; Meade, Kieran G; Miglior, Filippo; Karrow, Niel A.; The Semex Alliance; et al. (Elsevier, 2018-09-13)
    Johne's disease (or paratuberculosis), caused by Mycobacterium avium ssp. paratuberculosis (MAP) infection, is a globally prevalent disease with severe economic and welfare implications. With no effective treatment available, understanding the role of genetics influencing host infection status is essential to develop selection strategies to breed for increased resistance to MAP infection. The main objectives of this study were to estimate genetic parameters for the MAP-specific antibody response using milk ELISA scores in Canadian Holstein cattle as an indicator of resistance to Johne's disease, and to unravel genomic regions and candidate genes significantly associated with MAP infection. After data editing, 168,987 milk ELISA records from 2,306 herds, obtained from CanWest Dairy Herd Improvement, were used for further analyses. Variance and heritability estimates for MAP infection status were determined using univariate linear animal models under 3 scenarios: (a) SCEN1: the complete data set (all herds); (b) SCEN2: herds with at least one suspect or test-positive animal (ELISA optical density ≥0.07); and (c) SCEN3: herds with at least one test-positive animal (ELISA optical density ≥0.11). Heritability estimates were calculated as 0.066, 0.064, and 0.063 for SCEN1, SCEN2, and SCEN3, respectively. The correlations between estimated breeding values for resistance to MAP infection and other economically important traits, when significant, were favorable and of low magnitude. Genome-wide association analyses identified important genomic regions on Bos taurus autosome (BTA)1, BTA7, BTA9, BTA14, BTA15, BTA17, BTA19, and BTA25 showing significant association with MAP infection status. These regions included 2 single nucleotide polymorphisms located 2 kb upstream of positional candidate genes CD86 and WNT9B, which play key roles in host immune response and tissue homeostasis. This study revealed the genetic architecture of MAP infection in Canadian Holstein cattle as measured by milk ELISA scores by estimating genetic parameters along with the identification of genomic regions potentially influencing MAP infection status. These findings will be of significant value toward implementing genetic and genomic evaluations for resistance to MAP infection in Holstein cattle.
  • Genetic selection for hoof health traits and cow mobility scores can accelerate the rate of genetic gain in producer-scored lameness in dairy cows

    Ring, Siobhan C.; Twomey, Alan J.; Byrne, Nicky; Kelleher, Margaret M.; Pabiou, Thierry; Doherty, Michael L.; Berry, Donagh P.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (American Dairy Science Association, 2018-09-13)
    Cattle breeding programs that strive to reduce the animal-level incidence of lameness are often hindered by the availability of informative phenotypes. As a result, indicator traits of lameness (i.e., hoof health and morphological conformation scores) can be used to improve the accuracy of selection and subsequent genetic gain. Therefore, the objectives of the present study were to estimate the variance components for hoof health traits using various phenotypes collected from a representative sample of Irish dairy cows. Also of interest to the present study was the genetic relationship between both hoof health traits and conformation traits with producer-scored lameness. Producer-recorded lameness events and linear conformation scores from 307,657 and 117,859 Irish dairy cows, respectively, were used. Data on hoof health (i.e., overgrown sole, white line disease, and sole hemorrhage), mobility scores, and body condition scores were also available from a research study on up to 11,282 Irish commercial dairy cows. Linear mixed models were used to quantify variance components for each trait and to estimate genetic correlations among traits. The estimated genetic parameters for hoof health traits in the present study were greater (i.e., heritability range: 0.005 to 0.27) than previously reported in dairy cows. With the exception of analyses that considered hoof health traits in repeatability models, little difference in estimated variance components existed among the various hoof-health phenotypes. Results also suggest that producer-recorded lameness is correlated with both hoof health (i.e., genetic correlation up to 0.48) and cow mobility (i.e., genetic correlation = 0.64). Moreover, cows that genetically tend to have rear feet that appear more parallel when viewed from the rear are also genetically more predisposed to lameness (genetic correlation = 0.39); genetic correlations between lameness and other feet and leg type traits, as well as between lameness and frame type traits, were not different from zero. Results suggest that if the population breeding goal was to reduce lameness incidence, improve hoof health, or improve cow mobility, genetic selection for either of these traits should indirectly benefit the other traits. Results were used to quantify the genetic gains achievable for lameness when alternative phenotypes are available.
  • Invited review: Milk lactose—Current status and future challenges in dairy cattle

    Costa, Angela; Lopez-Villalobos, N.; Sneddon, N.W.; Shalloo, Laurence; Franzoi, Marco; de Marchi, M.; Penasa, M.; University of Padova, Italy; DOR1721792/17 (Elsevier, 2019-05-10)
    Lactose is the main carbohydrate in mammals' milk, and it is responsible for the osmotic equilibrium between blood and alveolar lumen in the mammary gland. It is the major bovine milk solid, and its synthesis and concentration in milk are affected mainly by udder health and the cow's energy balance and metabolism. Because this milk compound is related to several biological and physiological factors, information on milk lactose in the literature varies from chemical properties to heritability and genetic associations with health traits that may be exploited for breeding purposes. Moreover, lactose contributes to the energy value of milk and is an important ingredient for the food and pharmaceutical industries. Despite this, lactose has seldom been included in milk payment systems, and it has never been used as an indicator trait in selection indices. The interest in lactose has increased in recent years, and a summary of existing information about lactose in the dairy sector would be beneficial for the scientific community and the dairy industry. The present review collects and summarizes knowledge about lactose by covering and linking several aspects of this trait in bovine milk. Finally, perspectives on the use of milk lactose in dairy cattle, especially for selection purposes, are outlined.
  • Effect of using internal teat sealant with or without antibiotic therapy at dry-off on subsequent somatic cell count and milk production

    McParland, Sinead; Dillon, Pat; Flynn, James; Ryan, N.; Arkins, S.; Kennedy, Aideen E.; Dairy Research Ireland (Elsevier, 2019-03-14)
    The objective of this study was to assess the effect of treating cows with teat sealant only compared with antibiotic plus teat sealant at drying off on weekly somatic cell count, potential intramammary infection, and milk production across the entire subsequent lactation. In 3 research herds in the south of Ireland, cows with SCC that did not exceed 200,000 cells/mL in the previous lactation (LowSCC) were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 treatments at drying off: internal teat sealant alone (ITS) or antibiotic plus teat sealant (AB+ITS). Cows with SCC that exceeded 200,000 cells/mL in the previous lactation were treated with AB+ITS and included in the analyses as a separate group (HighSCC). Weekly individual animal composite SCC records were available for 654 cow lactations and were transformed to somatic cell scores (SCS) for the purpose of analysis. Data were divided into 3 data sets to represent records obtained (1) up to 35 DIM, (2) up to 120 DIM, and (3) across the lactation. Foremilk secretions were taken from all quarters at drying off, at calving, 2 wk after calving, and in mid-lactation and were cultured to detect the presence of bacteria. The LowSCC cows treated with ITS alone had higher daily milk yield (0.67 kg/d) across lactation compared with LowSCC cows treated with AB+ITS. The LowSCC cows treated with ITS alone had higher SCS in early, up to mid, and across lactation compared with LowSCC cows treated with AB+ITS. We detected no difference in weekly SCS of LowSCC cows treated with ITS alone and SCS of HighSCC cows. The least squares means back-transformed SCC across lactation of the LowSCC cows treated with ITS alone, LowSCC cows treated with AB+ITS, and HighSCC cows were 41,523, 34,001, and 38,939 cells/mL respectively. The odds of LowSCC cows treated with ITS alone having bacteria present in their foremilk across lactation was 2.7 (95% confidence interval: 1.91 to 3.85) and 1.6 (1.22 to 2.03) times the odds of LowSCC cows treated with AB+ITS and of HighSCC cows treated with AB+ITS, respectively. In this study, Staphylococcus aureus was the most prevalent pathogen isolated from the population. Recategorizing the threshold for LowSCC cows as ≤150,000 cells/mL or ≤100,000 cells/mL in the previous lactation had no effect on the results. The results indicate that herds with good mastitis control programs may use ITS alone at dry-off in cows with SCC <200,000 cells/mL across lactation with only a small effect on herd SCC.
  • Effect of finishing diet and duration on the sensory quality and volatile profile of lamb meat

    Gkarane, Vasiliki; Brunton, Nigel; Allen, Paul; Gravador, Rufielyn S.; Claffey, Noel A.; Diskin, Michael G.; Fahey, Alan G.; Farmer, Linda J.; Moloney, Aidan P; Alcalde, Maria J.; et al. (Elsevier, 2018-08-02)
    Animal production factors can affect the sensory quality of lamb meat. The study investigated the effect of diet composition and duration of consumption on the proximate analysis, volatile profile and sensory quality of lamb meat. Ninety-nine male Texel × Scottish Blackface lambs were raised at pasture for 10 months before being assigned in groups of 11 to one of the following treatments: 100% Silage (S) for 36 (S36), 54 (S54) or 72 (S72) days; 50% Silage - 50% Concentrate (SC) for 36 (SC36), 54 (SC54) or 72 (SC72) days; 100% Concentrate (C) for 36 (C36) or 54 (C54) or 72 (C72) days. A trained sensory panel found Intensity of Lamb Aroma, Dry Aftertaste and Astringent Aftertaste to be higher in meat from lambs on the concentrate diet. Discriminant analysis showed that the volatile profile enabled discrimination of lamb based on dietary treatment but the volatile differences were insufficient to impact highly on sensory quality. Muscle from animals in the S54 group had higher Manure/Faecal Aroma and Woolly Aroma than the SC54 and C54 groups, possibly related to higher levels of indole and skatole. Further research is required to establish if these small differences would influence consumer acceptability.

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