• Animal welfare research – progress to date and future prospects

      Boyle, Laura A; Conneely, M.; Kennedy, Emer; O’Connell, N.; O'Driscoll, Keelin; Earley, Bernadette (Teagasc, 2022-02-26)
      RECORDABSTRACTARTICLE Animal welfare research – progress to date and future prospects OTHER Author(s): L. Boyle 1 , M. Conneely 1 , E. Kennedy 1 , N. O’Connell 2 , K. O’Driscoll 1 , B. Earley 3 , Publication date (Electronic): 26 February 2022 Journal: Irish Journal of Agricultural and Food Research Publisher: Compuscript Keywords: Animal welfare, beef, dairy, pig, poultry, welfare assessment Abstract The welfare status of an animal is dependent on its ability to cope and exist in harmony with its environment, such that good physical and psychological health is maintained. Improving animal welfare is an increasingly important aspect of livestock production systems due, in a large extent, to increased consumer concerns about animal production practices. Animal welfare is an integrated part of quality assurance programmes for sustainable animal production, considering that welfare, health, management, economy, consumer acceptance and environmental impact are interdependent. The major welfare concerns in the livestock industry in recent years relate to the rearing and management of dairy calves, the welfare of the dairy cow, effect of husbandry management procedures on the welfare of beef cattle, rearing of sows in gestation and farrowing crates, and the broiler (meat) chicken sector. The paper will focus on scientific research underpinning these welfare concerns, with a particular focus on research conducted on the island of Ireland.
    • Carcass characteristics of cattle differing in Jersey proportion

      Berry, Donagh; Judge, Michelle; Evans, R. D.; Buckley, Frank; Cromie, A. R.; Science Foundation Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine; Meat Technology Ireland; Enterprise Ireland; 16/RC/3835; et al. (Elsevier, 2018-09-27)
      Comparison of alternative dairy (cross-)breeding programs requires full appraisals of all revenues and costs, including beef merit. Few studies exist on carcass characteristics of crossbred dairy progeny originating from dairy herds as well as their dams. The objective of the present study was to quantify, using a national database, the carcass characteristics of young animals and cows differing in their fraction of Jersey. The data set consisted of 117,593 young animals and 42,799 cows. The associations between a combination of sire and dam breed proportion (just animal breed proportion when the dependent variable was on cows) with age at slaughter (just for young animals), carcass weight, conformation, fat score, price per kilogram, and total carcass value were estimated using mixed models that accounted for covariances among herdmates of the same sex slaughtered in close proximity in time; we also accounted for age at slaughter in young animals (which was substituted with carcass weight and carcass fat score when the dependent variable was age at slaughter), animal sex, parity of the cow or dam (where relevant), and temporal effects represented by a year-by-month 2-way interaction. For young animals, the heaviest of the dairy carcasses were from the mating of a Holstein-Friesian dam and a Holstein-Friesian sire (323.34 kg), whereas the lightest carcasses were from the mating of a purebred Jersey dam to a purebred Jersey sire which were 46.31 kg lighter (standard error of the difference = 1.21 kg). The young animal carcass weight of an F1 Holstein-Friesian × Jersey cross was 20.4 to 27.0 kg less than that of a purebred Holstein-Friesian animal. The carcass conformation of a Holstein-Friesian young animal was 26% superior to that of a purebred Jersey, translating to a difference of 0.78 conformation units on a scale of 1 to 15. Purebred Holstein-Friesians produced carcasses with less fat than their purebred Jersey counterparts. The difference in carcass price per kilogram among the alternative sire-dam breed combinations investigated was minimal, although large differences existed among the different breed types for overall carcass value; the carcass value of a Holstein-Friesian animal was 20% greater than that of a Jersey animal. Purebred Jersey animals required, on average, 21 d longer to reach a given carcass weight and fat score relative to a purebred Holstein-Friesian. The difference in age at slaughter between a purebred Holstein-Friesian animal and the mating between a Holstein-Friesian sire with a Jersey dam, and vice versa, was between 7.0 and 8.9 d. A 75.8-kg difference in carcass weight existed between the carcass of a purebred Jersey cow and that of a Holstein-Friesian cow; a 50% Holstein–Friesian-50% Jersey cow had a carcass 42.0 kg lighter than that of a purebred Holstein-Friesian cow. Carcass conformation was superior in purebred Holstein-Friesian compared with purebred Jersey cows. Results from this study represent useful input parameters to populate simulation models of alternative breeding programs on dairy farms, and to help beef farmers evaluate the cost-benefit of rearing, for slaughter, animals differing in Jersey fraction.
    • Disease screening profiles and colostrum management practices on 16 Irish suckler beef farms

      O’Shaughnessy, James; Earley, Bernadette; Barrett, Damien; Doherty, Michael L; Crosson, Paul; de Waal, Theo; Mee, John F; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2015)
      Background Calf output is a key element in determining the profitability of a suckler beef enterprise. Infectious agents such as Bovine Virus Diarrhoea (BVD) virus, colostrum management and parasitic challenge can all affect calf output. Prior to the national BVD eradication programme, there was little published information on either the prevalence or effect of BVD in Irish beef herds. There is little published information on colostrum management practices in Irish commercial beef herds and there have also been few studies published on the prevalence of liver fluke or rumen fluke infection in Irish beef herds. Sixteen farms participating in the Teagasc/Farmers Journal BETTER farm beef programme were used in this study. Fourteen herds were screened for the presence of BVD virus in 2010 using RT-PCR. In 13 herds, blood samples were collected from calves (2–14 days of age) in November 2011 - April 2012 to determine their passive immune status using the zinc sulphate turbidity (ZST) test, while in 12 herds, blood and faecal samples were taken in order to determine the level of exposure to gastrointestinal and hepatic helminths. Results The overall prevalence of BVD virus-positive cattle was 0.98% (range 0 - 3% per herd, range 0.6 - 3.0% per positive herd). Eighteen of the 82 calves (22%) sampled had ZST values less than 20 units (herd mean range 17.0 – 38.5 units) indicating a failure of passive transfer. The overall animal-level (herd-level) prevalence of liver fluke and rumen fluke infection in these herds was 40.5% (100%) and 20.8% (75%), respectively. Conclusions The potential costs associated with the presence of animals persistently infected with BVD virus through the increased use of antibiotics; the rate of failure of passive transfer of colostral immunoglobulins and the high prevalence of liver fluke infection in these herds highlight that some Irish suckler beef farms may not be realizing their economic potential due to a range of herd health issues. The use of farm-specific herd health plans should be further encouraged on Irish suckler beef farms.
    • Extending the Grazing Period for Bulls, Prior to Finishing on a Concentrate Ration: Composition, Collagen Structure and Organoleptic Characteristics of Beef.

      Mezgebo, Gebrehawerya B; Monahan, Frank J; McGee, Mark; O'Riordan, Edward G; Marren, Declan; Listrat, Anne; Picard, Brigitte; Richardson, R Ian; Moloney, Aidan P; Teagasc (2019-07-23)
      The biochemical and organoleptic characteristics of the longissimus thoracis muscle from suckler bulls (n = 56) finished on a concentrate-based system (C) or raised in a pasture-based system (P) incorporating 99 (P99), 162 (P162) or 231 days (P231) of grazing prior to indoor finishing on the concentrate-based diet were investigated. Age at slaughter increased with increasing period at pasture. Intramuscular fat concentration was lower (p < 0.001) for P99 than for C, P162 and P231 bulls, which did not differ. Soluble collagen proportion was lower (p < 0.01) for P162 and P231 than for P99 and C bulls. Collagen cross-link content was higher (p < 0.05) for P231 than for P99 and C bulls and for P162 than for C bulls. The proportion of type I muscle fibres was higher (p < 0.01) for P231 and P162 than for P99 and C bulls. Sensory tenderness was higher (p < 0.001) for C and P162 than for P99 and P231 bulls and overall liking was higher (p < 0.01) for C than for P99 and P231 bulls but similar to P162 bulls. Extending the grazing period to 162 days did not negatively influence the sensory qualities of beef compared to the intensive concentrate-based system.
    • Factors associated with the weight of individual primal cuts and their inter-relationship in cattle

      Judge, Michelle M.; Pabiou, T.; Conroy, S.; Fanning, R.; Kinsella, M.; Aspel, D.; Cromie, A. R.; Berry, Donagh; Science Foundation Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine; et al. (Oxford Academic, 2019-08-14)
      Input parameters for decision support tools are comprised of, amongst others, knowledge of the associated factors and the extent of those associations with the animal-level feature of interest. The objective of the present study was to quantify the association between the animal-level factors with primal cut yields in cattle and to understand the extent of the variability in primal cut yields independent of other primal cuts or as carcass weight itself. The data used consisted of the weight of 14 primal carcass cuts (as well as carcass weight, conformation and fat score) on up to 54,250 young cattle slaughtered between 2013 and 2017. Linear mixed models, with contemporary group of herd-sex-season of slaughter as a random effect, were used to quantify the associations between a range of model fixed effects with each primal cut separately. Fixed effects in the model were dam parity, heterosis coefficient, recombination loss, a covariate per breed representing the proportion of Angus, Belgian Blue, Charolais, Jersey, Hereford, Limousin, Simmental, and Holstein-Friesian and a three-way interaction between whether the animal was born in a dairy or beef herd, sex, and age at slaughter, with or without carcass weight as a covariate in the mixed model. The raw correlations among all cuts were all positive varying from 0.33 (between the bavette and the striploin) to 0.93 (between the topside and knuckle). The partial correlation among cuts, following adjustment for differences in carcass weight, varied from -0.36 to 0.74. Age at slaughter, sex, dam parity and breed were all associated (P<0.05) with the primal cut weight. Knowledge of the relationship between the individual primal cuts, and the solutions from the models developed in the study, could prove useful inputs for decision support systems level to increase performance.
    • On-farm net benefit of genotyping candidate female replacement cattle and sheep

      Newton, J.E.; Berry, Donagh; Science Foundation Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; European Union; 16/RC/3835; 727213 (Elsevier BV, 2020-12-07)
      The net benefit from investing in any technology is a function of the cost of implementation and the expected return in revenue. The objective of the present study was to quantify, using deterministic equations, the net monetary benefit from investing in genotyping of commercial females. Three case studies were presented reflecting dairy cows, beef cows and ewes based on Irish population parameters; sensitivity analyses were also performed. Parameters considered in the sensitivity analyses included the accuracy of genomic evaluations, replacement rate, proportion of female selection candidates retained as replacements, the cost of genotyping, the sire parentage error rate and the age of the female when it first gave birth. Results were presented as an annualised monetary net benefit over the lifetime of an individual, after discounting for the timing of expressions. In the base scenarios, the net benefit was greatest for dairy, followed by beef and then sheep. The net benefit improved as the reliability of the genomic evaluations improved and, in fact, a negative net benefit of genotyping was less frequent when the reliability of the genomic evaluations was high. The impact of a 10% point increase in genomic reliability was, however, greatest in sheep, followed by beef and then dairy. The net benefit of genotyping female selection candidates reduced as replacement rate increased. As genotyping costs increased, the net benefit reduced irrespective of the percentage of selection candidates kept, the replacement rate or even the population considered. Nonetheless, the association between the genotyping cost and the net benefit of genotyping differed by the percentage of selection candidates kept. Across all replacement rates evaluated, retaining 25% of the selection candidates resulted in the greatest net benefit when genotyping cost was low but the lowest net benefit when genotyping cost was high. Genotyping breakeven cost was non-linearly associated with the percentage of selection candidates retained, reaching a maximum when 50% of selection candidates were retained, irrespective of replacement rate, genomic reliability or the population. The genotyping breakeven cost was also non-linearly associated with replacement rate. The approaches outlined within provide the back-end framework for a decision support tool to quantify the net benefit of genotyping, once parameterised by the relevant population metrics.
    • Predicted carcass meat yield and primal cut yields in cattle divergent in genetic merit for a terminal index

      Connolly, Stephen M; Cromie, Andrew R; Sleator, Roy D; Berry, Donagh; Anglo Beef Processors (ABP) (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2018-12-21)
      Several studies have clearly demonstrated the favorable impact of genetic selection on increasing beef cattle performance within the farm gate. Few studies, however, have attempted to quantify the value of genetic selection to downstream sectors of the beef industry, such as the meat processing sector. The objective of the current study was to characterize detailed carcass attributes of animals divergent in genetic merit for a terminal index as well as individual measures of genetic merit for carcass weight, conformation, and fat. The data used consisted of 53,674 young bulls and steers slaughtered between the years 2010 and 2013 in multiple Irish processing plants. All animals had a genetic evaluation as well as phenotypic measures of carcass characteristics. A terminal index, based on pedigree index for calving performance, feed intake, and carcass traits, calculated from the Irish national genetic evaluations, was obtained for each animal. Animals were categorized into four terminal index groups based on genetic merit estimates derived prior to the expression of the carcass phenotype by the animal. The association between genetic merit for terminal index with predicted phenotypic carcass red meat yield, carcass fat, carcass bone, and carcass composition, as well as between genetic merit for carcass weight, conformation, and fat with predicted phenotypic carcass red meat yield and composition were all quantified using linear mixed models. A greater terminal index value was associated with, on average, heavier phenotypic weights of each wholesale cut category. A greater terminal index value was also associated with a greater weight of meat and bone, but reduced carcass fat. Relative to animals in the lowest 25% genetic merit group, animals in the highest 25% genetic merit group had, on average, a greater predicted yield of very high value cuts (4.52 kg), high value cuts (13.13 kg), medium value cuts (6.06 kg), low value cuts (13.25 kg) as well as more total meat yield (37 kg). The results from the present study clearly signify a benefit to meat processers from breeding programs for terminal characteristics; coupled with the previously documented benefits to the producer, the benefits of breeding programs across the entire food production chain are obvious.