• Factors affecting body condition score, live weight and reproductive performance in spring-calving suckler cows

      Drennan, Michael J; Berry, Donagh (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2006)
      The objective was to identify factors affecting live weight (LW), body condition score (BCS), calving rate and calving interval in spring-calving suckler cows. A total of 925 records on 299 cows from the years 1987 to 1999 were used and the data were analyzed using mixed models and generalised estimating equations. Cows calving early in the year (< day 65 of the year) were significantly heavier at the start of winter, had greater BCS at the subsequent calving but lost most LW in winter. Despite having higher LW gain at pasture, annual LW gain of early-calving cows was lower than that of late-calving cows (> day 90 of the year). Trends in BCS were similar to LW but there was no effect of calving date on annual BCS change. Cows in parity 1, 2, 3 to 7 and >7 had initial LW of 523, 549, 614 and 623 kg, winter LW losses of 61, 52, 65 and 67 kg and LW gains at pasture of 81, 99, 94 and 75 kg, respectively. First parity animals had higher BCS at the start of winter but had greater BCS loss in winter and lower BCS gain at pasture than the other three parity groups. Overall pregnancy rate was 93.6% and was not affected by either previous calving date or cow parity. Mean calving interval was 367 days and was affected by previous calving date but there was no effect of either cow parity or previous calving difficulty. Mean calving interval for cows calving early, mid-season or late were 378, 364 and 353 days, respectively. The results show that good reproduction performance can be achieved in spring-calving suckler cows subjected to low feeding levels during the winter period but grazed on well-managed pasture in summer.
    • Factors affecting ewe longevity on sheep farms in three European countries

      McLaren, A.; McHugh, Noirin; Lambe, N. R.; Pabiou, T.; Wall, E.; Boman, I. A.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Research Council of Norway; Norwegian Association of Sheep and Goat Breeders; UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; et al. (Elsevier BV, 2020-08)
      The ability to identify ewes that can outperform their contemporaries, in terms of how long they remain productive in the flock, will help towards improving flock efficiency and profitability. The main objectives of this study were to: (1) identify the main reasons for mortality or culling within diverse sheep production systems in Ireland, Norway and UK; (2) investigate the influence of early life factors on ewe longevity within each of these systems; and (3) determine whether common approaches or recommendations could be employed to improve ewe longevity. The main reasons for mortality or culling were, in addition to old age, mastitis (Irish and Norwegian sheep) and tooth loss (UK hill sheep). In each country, there were significant differences in age at last lambing due to the year the ewe was born (but in no consistent pattern), and due to her flock of birth (P < 0.05). From the Norwegian data, there was some indication ewes from younger dams lambed for the last time at a younger age, however, this trend was not seen in the Irish or UK data. Ewes born as singletons, in the Irish data, lambed for the last time at an older age than those that had been born in larger litters, although this was not observed in the other data sets. Age at first lambing and some breed proportions (proportion of Texel and Suffolk particularly) of the animal (both not fitted in the Norwegian or UK analyses) were found to have a highly significant (P < 0.0001) effect on age at last lambing in the Irish analyses. The results suggest that longevity is influenced by a range of different factors and the early life predictors investigated could not be used to provide consistent recommendations across countries, production systems and breeds that would influence ewe longevity. One common definition or solution to select ewes for longer productive life in divergent sheep flocks may not be appropriate.
    • Factors associated with profitability in pasture-based systems of milk production

      Hanrahan, Liam; McHugh, Noirin; Hennessy, Thia; Moran, Brian; Kearney, R.; Wallace, Michael; Shalloo, Laurence (Elsevier, 2018-03-07)
      The global dairy industry needs to reappraise the systems of milk production that are operated at farm level with specific focus on enhancing technical efficiency and competitiveness of the sector. The objective of this study was to quantify the factors associated with costs of production, profitability, and pasture use, and the effects of pasture use on financial performance of dairy farms using an internationally recognized representative database over an 8-yr period (2008 to 2015) on pasture-based systems. To examine the associated effects of several farm system and management variables on specific performance measures, a series of multiple regression models were developed. Factors evaluated included pasture use [kg of dry matter/ha and stocking rate (livestock units/ha)], grazing season length, breeding season length, milk recording, herd size, dairy farm size (ha), farmer age, discussion group membership, proportion of purchased feed, protein %, fat %, kg of milk fat and protein per cow, kg of milk fat and protein per hectare, and capital investment in machinery, livestock, and buildings. Multiple regression analysis demonstrated costs of production per hectare differed by year, geographical location, soil type, level of pasture use, proportion of purchased feed, protein %, kg of fat and protein per cow, dairy farm size, breeding season length, and capital investment in machinery, livestock, and buildings per cow. The results of the analysis revealed that farm net profit per hectare was associated with pasture use per hectare, year, location, soil type, grazing season length, proportion of purchased feed, protein %, kg of fat and protein per cow, dairy farm size, and capital investment in machinery and buildings per cow. Pasture use per hectare was associated with year, location, soil type, stocking rate, dairy farm size, fat %, protein %, kg of fat and protein per cow, farmer age, capital investment in machinery and buildings per cow, breeding season length, and discussion group membership. On average, over the 8-yr period, each additional tonne of pasture dry matter used increased gross profit by €278 and net profit by €173 on dairy farms. Conversely, a 10% increase in the proportion of purchased feed in the diet resulted in a reduction in net profit per hectare by €97 and net profit by €207 per tonne of fat and protein. Results from this study, albeit in a quota limited environment, have demonstrated that the profitability of pasture-based dairy systems is significantly associated with the proportion of pasture used at the farm level, being cognizant of the levels of purchased feed.
    • Factors associated with selling price of cattle at livestock marts

      McHugh, Noirin; Fahey, Alan G.; Evans, R. D.; Berry, Donagh (Cambridge University Press, 2010-02)
      The objective of this study was to determine the factors associated with selling price of animals at livestock marts around Ireland. Data consisted of four distinct maturity categories: calves (2 to 84 days of age, n553 838); weanlings (6 to 12 months of age, n519 972); post-weanlings (12 to 36 months of age, n593 081) and cows (.30 months to 12 years of age, n594 839); sold through livestock marts between 2000 and 2008. Factors associated with animal price were determined within each maturity category separately using mixed models; random effects were mart, date of sale nested within mart, and herd of origin nested within year of sale. Mean selling price was h157, h580, h655 and h592 for calves, weanlings, post-weanlings and cows, respectively. The greatest prices were paid for singleton crossbred male calves, weanlings and post-weanlings from older dams. With the exception of the Aberdeen Angus, beef breeds and their crosses consistently received higher prices than their dairy counterparts across all four maturity categories; increased proportion of Belgian Blue and Charolais was associated with greater prices compared with other beef breeds. When live-weight was included in the multiple regression models the association between price and all factors regressed toward zero but most factors remained associated with price. The highest price was recorded in the spring months for calves, post-weanlings and cows, and in the autumn months for weanlings. Results from this study may be used to help farmers make more informed management decisions, as well as provide information for bio-economic models for evaluating alternative production systems or estimating economic values.
    • Factors associated with the financial performance of spring-calving, pasture-based dairy farms

      Ramsbottom, George; Horan, Brendan; Berry, Donagh; Roche, John R. (Elsevier for American Dairy Science Association, 2015-03)
      As land becomes a limiting resource for pasture-based dairy farming, the inclusion of purchased supplementary feeds to increase milk production per cow (through greater dry matter intake) and per hectare (through increased stocking rate) is often proposed as a strategy to increase profitability. Although a plausible proposition, virtually no analysis has been done on the effect of such intensification on the profitability of commercial pasture-based dairy farm businesses. The objective of this study was to characterize the average physical and financial performance of dairy systems differing in the proportion of the cow’s diet coming from grazed pasture versus purchased supplementary feeds over 4 yr, while accounting for any interaction with geographic region. Physical, genetic, and financial performance data from 1,561 seasonal-calving, pasture-based dairy farms in Ireland were available between the years 2008 and 2011; data from some herds were available for more than 1 yr of the 4-yr study period, providing data from 2,759 dairy farm-years. The data set was divided into geographic regions, based on latitude, rainfall, and soil characteristics that relate to drainage; these factors influence the length of the pasture growth season and the timing of turnout to pasture in spring and rehousing in autumn. Farms were also categorized by the quantity of feed purchased; farms in which cows received <10, 11–20, 21–30, or >30% of their annual feed requirements from purchased feed were considered to be categories representative of increasing levels of system intensification. Geographic region was associated with differences in grazing days, pasture harvested per hectare, milk production per cow and per hectare, and farm profitability. Farms in regions with longer grazing seasons harvested a greater amount of pasture [an additional 19 kg of dry matter (DM)/ha per grazing day per hectare], and greater pasture harvested was associated with increased milk component yield per hectare (58.4 kg of fat and 51.4 kg of protein more per tonne of DM pasture harvested/ha) and net profit per hectare (€268/ha more per tonne of DM harvested). Milk yield and yield of milk components per cow and per hectare increased linearly with increased use of purchased feed (additional 30.6 kg of milk fat and 26.7 kg of milk protein per tonne of DM purchased feed per hectare), but, on average, pasture harvested/hectare and net profit/hectare declined (−0.60 t of DM/ha and −€78.2/ha, respectively) with every tonne of DM supplementary feed purchased per hectare. The results indicate an effect of purchased feeds not usually accounted for in marginal economic analyses (e.g., milk to feed price ratio): the decline in pasture harvested/hectare, with the costs of producing the unutilized pasture in addition to the cost of feed resulting in a lower profit. In conclusion, greater milk component yields per cow were associated with increased profit per hectare, and a greater use of purchased feeds was associated with an increase in the yield of milk components. However, on average, increasing yield of milk components through the supply of purchased feeds to pasture-based cows was associated with a decline in pasture harvested per hectare and profitability. The decline in pasture harvested per hectare with increased use of purchased supplements per cow is probably the primary reason for the low milk production response and the failure to capitalize on the potential benefits of purchased supplements, with the associated costs of growing the unutilized pasture, in conjunction with increased nonfeed variable and fixed costs outweighing the increased milk production and revenue from supplementation. Farmers considering intensification through use of purchased supplements to increase the stock-carrying capacity of the farm (i.e., stocking rate) must ensure that they focus on management of pasture and total cost control to capture the potential benefits of supplementary feed use.
    • 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.
    • Factors Influencing Farmer Willingness to Reduce Aggression between Pigs

      Peden, Rachel; Akaichi, Faical; Camerlink, Irene; Boyle, Laura; Turner, Simon; Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) (MDPI AG, 2018-12-22)
      Aggression between pigs remains an important animal welfare issue despite several solutions existing. Uptake of livestock welfare research relies on various stakeholders being willing to recommend or adopt changes to farm structure or management (e.g., veterinarians, researchers, farmers). This survey provides insight into the attitudes and practices of 122 UK and Irish pig farmers regarding aggression between growing pigs. Our aim was to understand why mitigation strategies are not adequately implemented. The majority of farmers mixed pigs at least once during production and had tried at least one mitigation strategy in the past. Farmers expressed limited willingness to implement strategies in the future, and a structural equation model revealed that this was directly influenced by their beliefs about the outcome of controlling aggression, and their perception of their ability to implement the necessary changes. Willingness was indirectly influenced by their perceptions of aggression as a problem and views of relevant stakeholder groups. Veterinarians had the greatest impact on farmer behavior. We recommend that researchers test research findings in practice, calculate cost-benefits of implementation, and transfer knowledge through various sources. This study showed that structural equation modeling is a valuable tool to understand farmer behavior regarding specific and entrenched animal welfare issues.
    • Factors influencing the conservation characteristics of baled and precision-chop grass silages

      McEniry, Joseph; Forristal, P.D.; O'Kiely, Padraig (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2011)
      The composition of baled silage on Irish farms frequently differs from that of comparable precision-chop silage. This paper concerns a field-scale study designed to investigate: (a) the effects of number of layers (2, 4, 6 or 8) of polyethylene stretch film and the duration of storage (7 vs. 18 months) on the conservation characteristics of baled silage, and (b) the conservation characteristics of baled (4 layers of stretch film) and precision-chop silages. All silages were made following three durations of wilting (0, 24 or 48 h). Wilting restricted silage fermentation, with silage pH being highest (P<0.001) and the concentration of fermentation products lowest (P<0.001) for the 48 h wilt treatment. Wrapping bales in only 2 layers of polyethylene stretch film resulted in extensive visible mould growth, but mould growth was practically eliminated by the application of 4 or more layers of film. Silage fermentation characteristics were generally improved by wilting, and by 4 compared to 2 layers of stretch film. Extending the storage duration of baled silage from 7 to 18 months reduced (P<0.001) the concentration of fermentation products and increased in-silo fresh weight losses (P<0.001) and visible mould growth. Whereas 4 layers of conventional stretch film are normally sufficient, 6 layers may be necessary to prevent mould growth when bales of unwilted silage are stored for a second season. Under good farm-management conditions differences observed between baled and precision-chop silages probably result mainly from differences in the concentration of dry matter in herbage at ensiling.
    • Farm management factors associated with bulk tank somatic cell count in Irish dairy herds

      Kelly, P.T.; O'Sullivan, Kathleen; Berry, Donagh; More, Simon J; Meaney, William J; O'Callaghan, Edmond J; O'Brien, Bernadette (Biomed Central, 01/04/2009)
      The relationship between bulk tank somatic cell count (SCC) and farm management and infrastructure was examined using data from 398 randomly selected, yet representative, Irish dairy farms where the basal diet is grazed grass. Median bulk tank SCC for the farms was 282,887 cells/ml ranging from 82,209 to 773,028 cells/ml. Two questionnaires were administered through face-to-face contact with each farmer. Herd-level factors associated with bulk tank SCC were determined using linear models with annual somatic cell score (i.e., arithmetic mean of the natural logarithm of bulk tank SCC) included as the dependent variable. All herd level factors were analysed individually in separate regression models, which included an adjustment for geographical location of the farm; a multiple regression model was subsequently developed. Management practices associated with low SCC included the use of dry cow therapy, participation in a milk recording scheme and the use of teat disinfection post-milking. There was an association between low SCC and an increased level of hygiene and frequency of cleaning of the holding yard, passageways and cubicles. Herd management factors associated with bulk tank SCC in Irish grazing herds are generally in agreement with most previous studies from confinement systems of milk production.
    • Farm management factors associated with bulk tank total bacterial count in Irish dairy herds during 2006/07

      Kelly, P.T.; O'Sullivan, Kathleen; Berry, Donagh; More, Simon J; Meaney, William J; O'Callaghan, Edmond J; O'Brien, Bernadette (Biomed Central, 01/01/2009)
      Research has shown that total bacterial count (TBC), which is the bacterial growth per ml of milk over a fixed period of time, can be decreased by good hygiene and farm management practices. The objective of the current study was to quantify the associations between herd management factors and bulk tank TBC in Irish spring calving, grass-based dairy herds. The relationship between bulk tank TBC and farm management and infrastructure was examined using data from 400 randomly selected Irish dairy farms where the basal diet was grazed grass. Herd management factors associated with bulk tank TBC were identified using linear models with herd annual total bacterial score (i.e., arithmetic mean of the natural logarithm of bulk tank TBC) included as the dependent variable. All herd management factors were individually analysed in a separate regression model, that included an adjustment for geographical location of the farm. A multiple stepwise regression model was subsequently developed. Median bulk tank TBC for the sample herds was 18,483 cells/ml ranging from 10,441 to 130,458 cells/ml. Results from the multivariate analysis indicated that the following management practices were associated with low TBC; use of heated water in the milking parlour; participation in a milk recording scheme; and tail clipping of cows at a frequency greater than once per year. Increased level of hygiene of the parlour and cubicles were also associated with lower TBC. Herd management factors associated with bulk tank TBC in Irish grazing herds were generally in agreement with most previous studies from confinement systems of milk production.
    • Farm management factors associated with the Bacillus cereus count in bulk tank milk

      O'Connell, Aine; Ruegg, P.L.; Gleeson, David E; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2013)
      The objective of this study was to determine the on-farm management factors that are associated with the Bacillus cereus count in raw bulk tank milk using a cross sectional study design. Bulk tank milk quality was monitored for B. cereus on 63 dairy farms between July and August 2012. Bulk tank milk samples corresponding with processor milk collection dates were taken over a two week period prior to the farm visit and tested for B. cereus. The four most recent samples taken prior to the on-farm visit were averaged and log transformed to give the outcome variable; mean log10 B. cereus cfu/mL. On-farm data collection included recording observations and providing a questionnaire on basic hygiene, management factors and cow hygiene scoring. All independent variables were analysed individually with the outcome variable using simple linear regression and one-way ANOVA; a multivariable regression model was subsequently developed. Only significant variables were retained in the final model (P < 0.05). The geometric mean B. cereus count for all milk samples was 40 cfu/mL. The start temperature of the cleaning solution wash, dry wiping teats prior to unit application, the feeding of silage and reusing the cleaning solution more than once were all unconditionally associated (P < 0.10) with the B. cereus count in bulk tank milk but did not enter the final multivariable model. B. cereus count was four times greater (201 cfu/mL) when cows had been housed compared to when they were on pasture (50 cfu/mL). The allocation of fresh grass every 12 h (62 cfu/mL) resulted in a decrease in B. cereus count (166cfu/mL every 24 h or greater). The testing of water for bacteriology was associated with an increase in B. cereus count. In conclusion, this study highlights specific management factors associated with the B. cereus count in bulk tank milk.
    • Farm-gate nitrogen balances on intensive dairy farms in the south west of Ireland

      Treacy, Mark; Humphreys, James; McNamara, Kevin; Browne, R.; Watson, C. J.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; European Union; Dairy Levy Research Trust (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2008)
      Nitrogen management and farm-gate N balances were evaluated on 21 intensive dairy farms in the south west of Ireland for each of four years (2003 to 2006). The mean annual stocking density was equivalent to 202 kg/ha (s.d. 29.6) of N excreted by livestock on the farm. The mean annual farm-gate N surplus (imports – exports) declined between 2003 and 2006 (277 to 232 kg/ha, s.e. 6.8; P < 0.001) due to a decline in annual N imports (fertilizer, feed and imported manures; 335 to 288 kg/ha, s.e. 6.9; P < 0.001). Overall annual fertilizer N use on the farms decreased during the study period (266 to 223 kg/ha, s.e. 6.5; P < 0.001) mainly due to lower inputs for the first application in spring and for the production of first-cut silage. These decreases were partly offset by applying more slurry in spring for early grazing and for first-cut silage. The introduction of white clover resulted in lower N imports on four farms. Export of N from farms was unaffected by reductions in N imports. The mean efficiency of N use tended to increase over time (0.18 in 2003 to 0.20 in 2006). The large variation in quantities of fertilizer N applied on farms with similar stocking densities suggests potential for further improvements in the efficiency of N use. In terms of fertilizer N use, complying with S.I. No. 378 of 2006 did not require major changes in the N management practiceson 19 of the farms.
    • Farm-gate phosphorus balances and soil phosphorus concentrations on intensive dairy farms in the south-west of Ireland

      Ruane, E. M.; Treacy, Mark; McNamara, Kevin; Humphreys, James (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2014)
      Phosphorus (P) loss to water is a significant threat to water quality in Ireland. Agriculture is an important source of this P. There is concern about balancing agronomic requirements and environmental protection in regulations prescribing P management on farms. This study examined farm-gate (P) balances and soil test P (STP) concentrations on 21 dairy farms in the south west of Ireland over four years, from 2003 to 2006 inclusive. Stocking density on the farms averaged 2.4 (s.d. = 0.4) livestock units (LU) per ha. Annual mean import of P onto farms was 21.6 (1.9) kg P/ha. Fertilizer P accounted for 47% (0.041), concentrates 35% (0.060) and organic manures 18% (0.034) of imported P. The mean annual P balance per farm was 9.4 (1.2) kg/ha, ranging from –3 to 47 kg/ha and mean P use efficiency was 0.71 (0.05) ranging from 0.24 to 1.37. The mean STP per farm following extraction using Morgan’s solution was 8.15 (2.9) mg/L of soil and ranged from 4.4 (2.2) to 14.7 (6.4) mg/L. There was a positive relationship (R2 = 0.34; P < 0.01) between STP and P balance; farms with a deficit of P tended to have agronomically sub-optimal STP and vice versa. The high between- and withinfarm variation in STP indicates that farmers were either unaware or were not making efficient use of STP results, and consequently there was agronomically sub-optimal soil P status in some fields and potentially environmentally damaging excesses on others (often within one farm). There was considerable potential to improve P management practices on these farms with clear agronomic and environmental benefits.
    • Fate of Transgenic DNA from Orally Administered Bt MON810 Maize and Effects on Immune Response and Growth in Pigs

      Walsh, Maria C.; Buzoianu, Stefan G.; Gardiner, Gillian E.; Rea, Mary; Gelencser, Eva; Janosi, Anna; Epstein, Michelle M.; Ross, R Paul; Lawlor, Peadar G; European Union; et al. (PLOS, 2011-11-23)
      We assessed the effect of short-term feeding of genetically modified (GM: Bt MON810) maize on immune responses and growth in weanling pigs and determined the fate of the transgenic DNA and protein in-vivo. Pigs were fed a diet containing 38.9% GM or non-GM isogenic parent line maize for 31 days. We observed that IL-12 and IFNγ production from mitogenic stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells decreased (P<0.10) following 31 days of GM maize exposure. While Cry1Ab-specific IgG and IgA were not detected in the plasma of GM maize-fed pigs, the detection of the cry1Ab gene and protein was limited to the gastrointestinal digesta and was not found in the kidneys, liver, spleen, muscle, heart or blood. Feeding GM maize to weanling pigs had no effect on growth performance or body weight. IL-6 and IL-4 production from isolated splenocytes were increased (P<0.05) in response to feeding GM maize while the proportion of CD4+ T cells in the spleen decreased. In the ileum, the proportion of B cells and macrophages decreased while the proportion of CD4+ T cells increased in GM maize-fed pigs. IL-8 and IL-4 production from isolated intraepithelial and lamina propria lymphocytes were also increased (P<0.05) in response to feeding GM maize. In conclusion, there was no evidence of cry1Ab gene or protein translocation to the organs and blood of weaning pigs. The growth of pigs was not affected by feeding GM maize. Alterations in immune responses were detected; however, their biologic relevance is questionable.
    • The fatty acid profile and stable isotope ratios of C and N of muscle from cattle that grazed grass or grass/clover pastures before slaughter and their discriminatory potential

      Moloney, Aidan P; O'Riordan, Edward G.; Schmidt, Olaf; Monahan, Frank J (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2018-11-09)
      Consumption of grazed pasture compared to concentrates results in higher concentrations, in beef muscle, of fatty acids considered to be beneficial to human health. Little information is available on the influence of the type of grazed forage. Our objectives were to determine 1) the effect of inclusion of white clover in a grazing sward on the fatty acid profile of beef muscle and 2) the potential of the fatty acid profile and stable isotope ratios of C and N to discriminate between beef from cattle that grazed grass-only or grass/clover swards before slaughter. A total of 28 spring-born Charolais steers grazed from March until slaughter in October, either on a perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) sward that received approximately 220 kg N/ha or a perennial ryegrass–white clover (Trifolium repens L.) sward that received 50 kg N/ha. The longissimus muscle from cattle finished on grass/clover had a higher (P < 0.05) proportion of C18:2 and C18:3 but a lower (P < 0.05) proportion of conjugated linoleic acid and δ15N value than animals finished on the grass-only sward. Discriminant analysis using the fatty acid data showed that, after cross-validation, 80.7% of grass/clover and 86.1% of grass-only muscle samples were correctly classified. Discriminant analysis using the stable isotope data showed that, after cross-validation, 95.7% of grass/clover and 86.5% of grass-only muscle samples were correctly classified. Inclusion of white clover in pasture is likely to have little effect on healthiness of meat for consumers. However, changes in fatty acids and stable isotopes can be used to distinguish between grass/clover-fed and grass-only-fed beef.
    • Fecal Microbiota Transplant From Highly Feed Efficient Donors Affects Cecal Physiology and Microbiota in Low- and High-Feed Efficient Chickens

      Metzler-Zebeli, Barbara U.; Siegerstetter, Sina-Catherine; Magowan, Elizabeth; Lawlor, Peadar G.; O′Connell, Niamh E.; Zebeli, Qendrim; European Union; 311794 (Frontiers Media SA, 2019-07-09)
      Fecal microbiota transplants (FMT) may be used to improve chicken’s feed efficiency (FE) via modulation of the intestinal microbiota and microbe-host signaling. This study investigated the effect of the administration of FMT from highly feed efficient donors early in life on the jejunal and cecal microbiota, visceral organ size, intestinal morphology, permeability, and expression of genes for nutrient transporters, barrier function and innate immune response in chickens of diverging residual feed intake (RFI; a metric for FE). Chicks (n = 110) were inoculated with the FMT or control transplant (CT) on 1, 6, and 9 days posthatch (dph), from which 56 chickens were selected on 30 dph as the extremes in RFI, resulting in 15 low and 13 high RFI chickens receiving the FMT and 14 low and 14 high RFI chickens receiving the CT. RFI rank and FMT only caused tendencies for alterations in the jejunal microbiota and only one unclassified Lachnospiraceae genus in cecal digesta was indicative of high RFI. By contrast, the FMT caused clear differences in the short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) profile in the crop and cecal microbiota composition compared to the CT, which indicated alterations in amylolytic, pullulanolytic and hemicellulolytic bacteria such as Lactobacillus, Dorea, and Ruminococcus. Moreover, the FMT caused alterations in intestinal development as indicated by the longer duodenum and shallower crypts in the ceca. From the observed RFI-associated variation, energy-saving mechanisms and moderation of the mucosal immune response were indicated by higher jejunal permeability, shorter villi in the ileum, and enhanced cecal expression of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL10 in low RFI chickens. Relationships obtained from supervised multigroup data integration support that certain bacteria, including Ruminococcocaceae-, Lactobacillus-, and unclassified Clostridiales-phylotypes, and SCFA in jejunal and cecal digesta modulated expression levels of cytokines, tight-junction protein OCLN and nutrient transporters for glucose and SCFA uptake. In conclusion, results suggest that the intestine only played a moderate role for the RFI-associated variation of the present low and high RFI phenotypes, whereas modulating the early microbial colonization resulted in longlasting changes in bacterial taxonomic and metabolite composition as well as in host intestinal development.
    • Feed and production efficiency of young crossbred beef cattle stratified on a terminal total merit index1

      Kelly, David N; Conroy, Stephen B; Murphy, Craig P; Sleator, Roy D; Berry, Donagh; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Science Foundation Ireland; 17/S/235; 16/RC/3835 (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2020-07-01)
      Few studies have attempted to quantify the association between a terminal total merit index with phenotypic feed and production efficiency in beef cattle, particularly when feed efficiency is itself explicitly absent as a goal trait in the index. The objective of the present study was to quantify the differences in phenotypic performance for feed intake, feed efficiency, and carcass traits of crossbred bulls, steers, and heifers differing in a terminal total merit index. A validation population of 614 bulls, steers, and heifers that were evaluated for feed intake and efficiency in the same feedlot and subsequently slaughtered at the end of their test period was constructed. The Irish national genetic evaluations for a terminal index of calving performance, docility, feed intake, and carcass traits were undertaken with the phenotypic records of animals present in the validation population masked. The validation population animals were subsequently stratified into four groups, within sex, according to their terminal index value. Mixed models were used to quantify the association between terminal genetic merit and phenotypic performance; whether the associations differed by sex were also investigated. The regression coefficient of phenotypic feed intake, carcass weight, carcass conformation, or carcass fat on its respective estimated breeding values was 0.86 kg dry matter 0.91 kg, 1.01 units, and 1.29 units, respectively, which are close to the expectation of one. On average, cattle in the very high terminal index stratum had a 0.63 kg DM/d lower feed intake, a 25.05 kg heavier carcass, a 1.82 unit better carcass conformation (scale 1 to 15), and a 1.24 unit less carcass fat score (scale 1 to 15), relative to cattle in the very low terminal index stratum. Cattle of superior total genetic merit were also more feed efficient (i.e., had a lower energy conversion ratio, lower residual feed intake, and greater residual gain), had a greater proportion of their live-weight as carcass weight (i.e., better dressing percentage) and were slaughtered at a younger age relative to their inferior total genetic merit counterparts. This study provides validation of an all-encompassing total merit index and demonstrates the benefits of selection on a total merit index for feed and production efficiency, which should impart confidence among stakeholders in the contribution of genetic selection to simultaneous improvements in individual animal performance and efficiency.
    • Feed intake pattern, behaviour, rumen characteristics and blood metabolites of finishing beef steers offered total mixed rations constituted at feeding or ensiling

      Cummins, B.; O'Kiely, Padraig; Keane, Michael G.; Kenny, David A.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2009)
      Two experiments were undertaken. In Experiment 1, behaviour, intake pattern and blood metabolites, were recorded for steers offered total mixed rations (TMR) based on grass silage and concentrates, and constituted either at ensiling (E-TMR) or feedout (F-TMR). Fourteen continental crossbred steers (mean starting weight 505 (s.d. 41.5) kg) were assigned to each of the following eight treatments: grass silage offered ad libitum (SO), E-TMR diets constituted in approximate dry matter (DM) ratios of grass:concentrates of 75:25 (EL), 50:50 (EM) and 25:75 (EH), F-TMR diets constituted in approximate DM ratios of grass silage:concentrates of 75:25 (FL), 50:50 (FM) and 25:75 (FH), and finally concentrates ad libitum (AL). Total DM intake increased linearly (P < 0.001) and the time spent eating and ruminating decreased linearly (P < 0.001) with increasing concentrate proportion. Animals on the F-TMR diets had higher total DM intakes (P < 0.05) and plasma glucose (P < 0.05) and urea (P < 0.001) concentrations than animals on the corresponding E-TMR diets. No effect of method of feed preparation on intake pattern or behaviour was recorded. In Experiment 2, four ruminally cannulated Holstein-Friesian steers of mean initial live weight 630 (s.d. 23.2) kg were used to evaluate rumen characteristics for four of the above diets (FL, EL, FH and EH) in a 4 × 4 latin square design. Higher concentrate diets resulted in lower rumen pH (P < 0.05), higher lactic acid (P < 0.001) and ammonia (P < 0.05) concentrations and lower acetate:propionate (P < 0.05). F-TMR was associated with a higher (P < 0.05) rumen volatile fatty acid concentration but no difference in other rumen fermentation characteristics compared to E-TMR. Concentrate proportion and method of feed preparation had no effect (P > 0.05) on rumen pool sizes but animals consuming the high concentrate diet had a faster (P < 0.05) rumen passage rate of NDF than animals on the low concentrate diet.
    • Feeding Techniques To Increase Calf Growth In The First Two Months Of Life

      Fallon, Richard J.; Morrison, Steven; Dawson, L.; Twigge, J. (Teagasc, 2008-01-01)
      Data from Cornell University and the University of Illinois in the USA suggested that average daily liveweight gains of 900 to 1000 g/calf/day could be achieved from birth to weaning provided the calf milk replacer (CMR) is formulated to meet the calf’s amino acid requirements for such a rate of gain. Their findings suggested a daily milk replacer DM allowance of 1250 to 1500 g/d with a crude protein content of 26 to 30%. A series of studies were undertaken, at ARINI with home born dairy calves and at Grange Beef Research Centre with purchased dairy calves, to determine the effect of increasing the daily milk replacer DM allowance and or increasing the crude protein content of the CMR on calf performance.The main outcomes of these studies were  There was no growth or intake response in any of the studies to increasing the crude protein content of the CMP from 23% to 28%.  Calf growth rates responded to increasing the dailymilk replacer allowance from 600 to 1200 g/day for both home bred and purchased calves. However, the effect was not significant post-weaning in any of the studies.  In all of the studies (for both home reared and purchased calves) feeding a high level of CMRdecreased concentrate DM intake. However, the calves concentrate intakes were similar post-weaning.  The home bred calves with free access to the milk replacer feeders failed to consume their 1200 g/day allowance. Calves offered 600 or 1200 g of CMR/day had average consumption of 554 and 944 g/d, respectively, in the milk feeding period.  Feeding a high (1200 g/d) compared to a low level (600 g/d) CMRdiet for the first 56 days had no significant effect on carcass weight or carcass characteristics when purchased male calves were slaughtered off an ad libitum concentrate diet after 388 days. The final carcass weights were 231 and 240 kg for the respective 600 and 1200 g/d CMR.  Reducing the fat content of the CMRfrom 18% to 12% did not have any effect on concentrate intake or liveweight gain.
    • Fertility of fresh and frozen sex-sorted semen in dairy cows and heifers in seasonal-calving pasture-based herds

      Maicas, C.; Hutchinson, Ian A.; Kenneally, Jonathon; Grant, Jim; Cromie, A. R.; Lonergan, P.; Butler, Stephen T.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship programme; Teagasc postdoctoral fellowship; Dovea Genetics; et al. (Elsevier, 2019-08-22)
      Our objective in this study was to evaluate the reproductive performance of dairy heifers and cows inseminated with fresh or frozen sex-sorted semen (SS) in seasonal-calving pasture-based dairy herds. Ejaculates of 10 Holstein-Friesian bulls were split and processed to provide (1) fresh conventional semen at 3 × 106 sperm per straw (CONV); (2) fresh SS at 1 × 106 sperm per straw (SS-1M); (3) fresh SS semen at 2 × 106 sperm per straw (SS-2M); and (4) frozen SS at 2 × 106 sperm per straw (SS-FRZ). Generalized linear mixed models were used to evaluate the effect of semen treatment and other explanatory variables on pregnancy per artificial insemination (P/AI) in heifers (n = 3,214) and lactating cows (n = 5,457). In heifers, P/AI was greater for inseminations with CONV (60.9%) than with SS-FRZ (52.8%) but did not differ from SS-1M (54.2%) or SS-2M (53.5%). Cows inseminated with CONV had greater P/AI (48.0%) than cows inseminated with SS, irrespective of treatment (SS-1M, SS-2M, and S-FROZEN; 37.6, 38.9, and 40.6%, respectively). None of the SS treatments differed from each other with regard to P/AI in either heifers or cows. The relative performance of SS compared with CONV was also examined [i.e., relative P/AI = (SS P/AI)/(CONV P/AI) × 100]. Frozen SS achieved relative P/AI >84%. Bull affected P/AI in both heifers and cows, but no bull by semen treatment interaction was observed. In heifers, P/AI increased with increasing Predicted Transmitting Ability for milk protein percentage. In cows, P/AI increased with increasing Economic Breeding Index (EBI) and with days in milk (DIM) at AI but decreased with increasing EBI milk subindex, parity and with DIM2. Cows in parity ≥5 had the lowest P/AI and differed from cows in parities 1, 2, or 3. Dispatch-to-AI interval of fresh semen did not affect P/AI in lactating cows, but a dispatch-to-AI interval by bull interaction was detected whereby P/AI was constant for most bulls but increased with greater dispatch-to-AI intervals for 2 bulls. In conclusion, frozen SS achieved greater P/AI relative to conventional semen than was previously reported in lactating cows. Fresh SS did not achieve greater P/AI than frozen SS, regardless of whether the sperm dose per straw was 1 × 106 or 2 × 106. A bull effect for all semen treatments, as well as a dispatch-to-AI interval by bull interaction for fresh semen, highlights the importance of using a large team of bulls for breeding management.