• Scientific appraisal of the Irish grass-based milk production system as a sustainable source of premium quality milk and dairy products

      O'Brien, Bernadette; Hennessy, Deirdre (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2017-12-29)
      The Irish dairy industry is critically important to the economy and general well-being of a large section of the Irish population. Its quality, sustainability and maintenance are the key for a vibrant rural society in the future. Two important elements for the future of this industry include (a) the quality, marketing and sale of dairy products on the export market and (b) sustainability from the perspectives of people, planet and profit. This paper provides a short review of current scientific evidence in relation to a number of topics, each of which is important in maintaining and developing dairy product quality and the sustainability of the Irish dairy industry. The topics addressed in the paper are as follows: the parameters of milk composition; milk processing; hygiene quality and safety; farm management practices and the regulations that govern such practices; animal health and welfare; environmental impacts; economic implications for farm families and rural communities; and the overall future sustainability of the family-based dairy farm structure.
    • Seasonality of nitrogen uptake, apparent recovery of fertilizer nitrogen and background nitrogen supply in two Irish grassland soils

      Murphy, P. N. C.; O'Connell, K.; Watson, S.; Watson, C. J.; Humphreys, James; Irish National Development Plan; Irish Dairy Levy Research Trust (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2013)
      Improving fertilizer nitrogen (N) use efficiency is central to sustainable and profitable grassland agriculture. A plot experiment with a control and fertilizer N (calcium ammonium nitrate, 25–50 kg/ha N) applied on nine occasions from February to September 2002 was conducted at two sites in southwest Ireland to assess N uptake and apparent recovery of fertilizer N (ARFN). Apparent recovery of fertilizer N after eight weeks varied from low in February (21%) and March (46%) to high from April to August (69–98%), indicating that high N use efficiency can be achieved in Irish grasslands at these times. Low recovery in spring suggested that N was applied in excess of immediate crop requirements. Note that N uptake and ARFN values from this study are likely to be somewhat conservative, particularly for spring applications. Over the 8 weeks during which growth was monitored, most (70%) of the grass yield and N uptake response to fertilizer N were in weeks 1 to 4 after application; however, a significant (30%) response occurred in weeks 5–8. This suggested that residual N availability following grazing at 4 weeks can be significant and that there may be scope to decrease N application rates in a grazing rotation. This can potentially improve N use efficiency and decrease N surpluses, with associated economic and environmental benefits. Apparent recovery of fertilizer N was closely related to soil temperature, with a 5.8% increase in ARFN with a 1 °C increase in temperature. Background (non-fertilizer) N supply contributed an average of 164 kg/ha per year (49%) taken up by the fertilized sward, highlighting the potential importance of soil N mineralisation to grassland productivity. Note that these results are for one year at two sites and that conditions may vary between years and at other sites and also that the experiment did not reproduce the cumulative effect of repeated fertilizer application over the grazing year.
    • Selection of calibration sub-sets to predict ryegrass quality using principle component analysis for near infrared spectroscopy

      Burns, G. A.; O'Kiely, Padraig; Gilliland, T. J.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; RSF –07 526 (British Grassland Society, 2015-09)
      Near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS) has become the routine method of assessing forage quality on grass evaluation and breeding programmes. NIRS requires predictive calibration models that relate spectral data to reference values developed using a calibration set (Burns et al. 2013). The samples that form the calibration set influence the accuracy and reliability of these models and need to be representative of samples that will likely be analysed (Shenk and Westerhaus, 1991; Burns et al. 2014). Analysing samples from the calibration set using reference techniques has a significant cost and time associated and needs to be considered in the context of the desired accuracy and robustness of calibration models. Calibration selection techniques can therefore maximise the accuracy and robustness of calibration models whilst reducing the number of samples requiring reference analysis. One such method is principal component analysis (PCA; Shenk and Westerhaus, 1991) whereby Shetty et al. (2012) reported that the number of samples could be reduced by up to 80% with a minimal loss in accuracy of calibration model. PCA selects representative calibration sub-sets through plotting all the samples in hyper-dimensional space, based on spectral data, and a sample is selected to represent a local neighbourhood cluster of samples for reference analysis. The aim of this research was to assess the accuracy of NIRS calibration models for buffering capacity, in vitro dry matter digestibility (DMD) and water soluble carbohydrate (WSC) content developed using calibration sub-sets selected by PCA.
    • Short Communication: The effect of dry period duration and dietary energy density on the rennet gelation properties of milk in early lactation

      Butler, Stephen T.; de Feu, M.A.; O'Brien, Bernadette; Guinee, Timothy P.; Murphy, J.J.; National Development Plan (Dublin, Ireland) (American Dairy Science Association and Elsevier Inc., 2010-02)
      This study was carried out to examine the effects of decreasing dry period duration (DP) and altering the energy density of the diet during early lactation on the rheological characteristics of milk. Forty mature Holstein-Friesian cows were used in a completely randomized design with a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement of treatments. Cows were randomly assigned to one of two dry period treatments and one of two nutritional treatments. The dry period treatments were continuous milking (CM) or an 8-week standard dry period (SDP), and the nutritional treatments were a standard energy diet (SE) or a high energy diet (HE). Actual dry period lengths were 6.3 ± 1.7 days and 62.1 ± 1.9 days for cows for the CM and SDP treatments, respectively. Milk samples were collected at 2, 6 and 10 weeks postpartum. The concentration of fat, protein and lactose was determined in each sample. The rennet gelation properties were measured at 31 ° C using dynamic low-amplitude strain oscillatory rheometry. The following parameters were obtained from the resultant elastic shear modulus (G′): gelation time (GT), maximum curd firming rate (CFRmax) and gel strength (GS). Reducing dry period duration from 62 to 6 days resulted in increases in milk protein concentration (31.8 vs. 34.7 g/kg; P < 0.001), CFRmax (2.58 vs. 3.60 Pa/min; P < 0.001) and GS (69.4 vs. 90.5 Pa; P = 0.003). Raising the dietary energy density decreased percentage milk fat (43.1 vs. 37.7 g/kg; P < 0.001) but otherwise had no effect. GS was correlated with CFRmax (r = 0.98; P < 0.001), and both variables were correlated with milk protein concentration (r = 0.71; P < 0.001, and r = 0.73; P < 0.001, respectively). The results indicate that decreasing the duration of DP increased milk protein concentration and improved the rennet gelation properties of milk, but that dietary energy density had little effect.
    • The significance of livestock as a contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions today and in the near future

      O'Mara, Frank P. (Elsevier Inc., 23/06/2011)
      Animal agriculture is responsible for 8–10.8% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as assessed by IPCC accounting and, on the basis of lifecycle analysis, the contribution of livestock is up to 18% of global emissions. Asia is the source of the most enteric CH4 emissions with Latin America, Africa, Western Europe and North America being significant sources. These emissions are dominated by emissions from cattle. When GHG emissions are related to food production, the four most efficient regions are Eastern and Western Europe, North America, and the non-EU former Soviet Union which produced 46.3% of ruminant meat and milk energy and only 25.5% of enteric CH4 emissions in 2005. In comparison, the three least efficient producers (Asia, Africa, Latin America) produced an equivalent amount (47.1%) of ruminant meat and milk energy, and almost 69% of enteric CH4 emissions in 2005. Livestock related emissions will increase as world population and food demand increases; enteric CH4 emissions are projected to grow by over 30% from 2000 to 2020. There are mitigations available now, but it is imperative to develop new mitigations and ways to implement existing technologies more cost effectively.
    • Single nucleotide polymorphisms at the imprinted bovine insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF2) locus are associated with dairy performance in Irish Holstein-Friesian cattle

      Berkowicz, Erik W; Magee, David A; Sikora, Klaudia M.; Berry, Donagh P.; Howard, Dawn J.; Mullen, Michael Paul; Evans, Ross D.; Spillane, Charles; MacHugh, David E (Cambridge University Press: Published for the Institute of Food Research and the Hannah Research Institute, 2010-09)
      The imprinted insulin-like growth factor 2 gene (IGF2) encodes a fetal mitogenic hormone protein (IGF-II) and has previously been shown to be associated with performance in dairy cattle. In this study we assessed genotype-phenotype associations between four single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) located within the bovine IGF2 locus on chromosome 29 and a range of performance traits related to milk production, animal growth and body size, fertility and progeny survival in 848 progeny-tested Irish Holstein-Friesian sires. Two of the four SNPs (rs42196909 and IGF2.g-3815A>G), which were in strong linkage disequilibrium (r 2=0.995), were associated with milk yield (Pf0.01) and milk protein yield (Pf0.05); the rs42196901 SNP was also associated (Pf0.05) with milk fat yield. Associations (Pf0.05) with milk fat percentage and milk protein percentage were observed at the rs42196901 and IGF2.g-3815A>G SNPs, respectively. The rs42196909 and IGF2.g-3815A>G SNPs were also associated with progeny carcass conformation (Pf0.05), while an association (Pf0.01) with progeny carcass weight was observed at the rs42194733 SNP locus. None of the four SNPs were associated with body size, fertility and progeny survival. These findings support previous work which suggests that the IGF2 locus is an important biological regulator of milk production in dairy cattle and add to an accumulating body of research showing that imprinted genes influence many complex performance traits in cattle.
    • Single nucleotide polymorphisms in the insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) gene are associated with performance in Holstein-Friesian dairy cattle

      Mullen, Michael Paul; Berry, Donagh P.; Howard, Dawn J.; Diskin, Michael G.; Lynch, Ciaran O.; Giblin, Linda; Kenny, David A.; Magee, David A; Meade, Kieran G; Waters, Sinead M.; Science Foundation Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 07/SRC/B1156; RSF-06-0353; RSF-06-0409; Irish Dairy Levy Research Trust (Frontiers Media SA, 16/02/2011)
      Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) has been shown to be associated with fertility, growth, and development in cattle. The aim of this study was to (1) identify novel single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the bovine IGF-1 gene and alongside previously identified SNPs (2) determine their association with traits of economic importance in Holstein-Friesian dairy cattle. Nine novel SNPs were identified across a panel of 22 beef and dairy cattle by sequence analysis of the 5′ promoter, intronic, and 3′ regulatory regions, encompassing ∼5 kb of IGF-1. Genotyping and associations with daughter performance for milk production, fertility, survival, and measures of body size were undertaken on 848 Holstein-Friesian AI sires. Using multiple regression analysis nominal associations (P < 0.05) were identified between six SNPs (four novel and two previously identified) and milk composition, survival, body condition score, and body size. The C allele of AF017143 a previously published SNP (C-512T) in the promoter region of IGF-1 predicted to introduce binding sites for transcription factors HSF1 and ZNF217 was associated (P < 0.05) with increased cow carcass weight (i.e., an indicator of mature cow size). Novel SNPs were identified in the 3′ region of IGF-1 were associated (P < 0.05) with functional survival and chest width. The remaining four SNPs, all located within introns of IGF-1 were associated (P < 0.05) with milk protein yield, milk fat yield, milk fat concentration, somatic cell score, carcass conformation, and carcass fat. Results of this study further demonstrate the multifaceted influences of IGF-1 on milk production and growth related traits in cattle.
    • SNP variation in the promoter of the PRKAG3 gene and association with meat quality traits in pig

      Ryan, Marion T; Hamill, Ruth M; O’Halloran, Aisling M; Davey, Grace C; McBryan, Jean; Mullen, Anne Maria; McGee, Chris; Gispert, Marina; Southwood, Olwen I; Sweeney, Torres; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland (Biomed Central, 25/07/2012)
      Background: The PRKAG3 gene encodes the γ3 subunit of adenosine monophosphate activated protein kinase (AMPK), a protein that plays a key role in energy metabolism in skeletal muscle. Non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in this gene such as I199V are associated with important pork quality traits. The objective of this study was to investigate the relationship between gene expression of the PRKAG3 gene, SNP variation in the PRKAG3 promoter and meat quality phenotypes in pork. Results: PRKAG3 gene expression was found to correlate with a number of traits relating to glycolytic potential (GP) and intramuscular fat (IMF) in three phenotypically diverse F1 crosses comprising of 31 Large White, 23 Duroc and 32 Pietrain sire breeds. The majority of associations were observed in the Large White cross. There was a significant association between genotype at the g.-311A>G locus and PRKAG3 gene expression in the Large White cross. In the same population, ten novel SNPs were identified within a 1.3 kb region spanning the promoter and from this three major haplotypes were inferred. Two tagging SNPs (g.-995A>G and g.-311A>G) characterised the haplotypes within the promoter region being studied. These two SNPs were subsequently genotyped in larger populations consisting of Large White (n = 98), Duroc (n = 99) and Pietrain (n = 98) purebreds. Four major haplotypes including promoter SNP’s g.-995A>G and g.-311A>G and I199V were inferred. In the Large White breed, HAP1 was associated with IMF% in the M. longissmus thoracis et lumborum (LTL) and driploss%. HAP2 was associated with IMFL% GP-influenced traits pH at 24 hr in LTL (pHULT), pH at 45 min in LTL (pH45LT) and pH at 45 min in the M. semimembranosus muscle (pH45SM). HAP3 was associated with driploss%, pHULT pH45LT and b* Minolta. In the Duroc breed, associations were observed between HAP1 and driploss% and pHUSM. No associations were observed with the remaining haplotypes (HAP2, HAP3 and HAP4) in the Duroc breed. The Pietrain breed was monomorphic in the promoter region. The I199V locus was associated with several GP-influenced traits across all three breeds and IMF% in the Large White and Pietrain breed. No significant difference in promoter function was observed for the three main promoter haplotypes when tested in vitro. Conclusion: Gene expression levels of the porcine PRKAG3 are associated with meat quality phenotypes relating to glycolytic potential and IMF% in the Large White breed, while SNP variation in the promoter region of the gene is associated with PRKAG3 gene expression and meat quality phenotypes.
    • Snpdat: Easy and rapid annotation of results from de novo snp discovery projects for model and non-model organisms

      Doran, Anthony G; Creevey, Christopher J. (Biomed Central, 2013-02-08)
      Background: Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are the most abundant genetic variant found in vertebrates and invertebrates. SNP discovery has become a highly automated, robust and relatively inexpensive process allowing the identification of many thousands of mutations for model and non-model organisms. Annotating large numbers of SNPs can be a difficult and complex process. Many tools available are optimised for use with organisms densely sampled for SNPs, such as humans. There are currently few tools available that are species non-specific or support non-model organism data. Results: Here we present SNPdat, a high throughput analysis tool that can provide a comprehensive annotation of both novel and known SNPs for any organism with a draft sequence and annotation. Using a dataset of 4,566 SNPs identified in cattle using high-throughput DNA sequencing we demonstrate the annotations performed and the statistics that can be generated by SNPdat. Conclusions: SNPdat provides users with a simple tool for annotation of genomes that are either not supported by other tools or have a small number of annotated SNPs available. SNPdat can also be used to analyse datasets from organisms which are densely sampled for SNPs. As a command line tool it can easily be incorporated into existing SNP discovery pipelines and fills a niche for analyses involving non-model organisms that are not supported by many available SNP annotation tools. SNPdat will be of great interest to scientists involved in SNP discovery and analysis projects, particularly those with limited bioinformatics experience.
    • Snpdat: Easy and rapid annotation of results from de novo snp discovery projects for model and non-model organisms

      Doran, Anthony G; Creevey, Christopher J. (Biomed Central, 2013-02-08)
      Background: Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are the most abundant genetic variant found in vertebrates and invertebrates. SNP discovery has become a highly automated, robust and relatively inexpensive process allowing the identification of many thousands of mutations for model and non-model organisms. Annotating large numbers of SNPs can be a difficult and complex process. Many tools available are optimised for use with organisms densely sampled for SNPs, such as humans. There are currently few tools available that are species non-specific or support non-model organism data. Results: Here we present SNPdat, a high throughput analysis tool that can provide a comprehensive annotation of both novel and known SNPs for any organism with a draft sequence and annotation. Using a dataset of 4,566 SNPs identified in cattle using high-throughput DNA sequencing we demonstrate the annotations performed and the statistics that can be generated by SNPdat. Conclusions: SNPdat provides users with a simple tool for annotation of genomes that are either not supported by other tools or have a small number of annotated SNPs available. SNPdat can also be used to analyse datasets from organisms which are densely sampled for SNPs. As a command line tool it can easily be incorporated into existing SNP discovery pipelines and fills a niche for analyses involving non-model organisms that are not supported by many available SNP annotation tools. SNPdat will be of great interest to scientists involved in SNP discovery and analysis projects, particularly those with limited bioinformatics experience.
    • Soil Properties and their Influence on Grassland Production under Low Input and Organic Farming Conditions

      Leonard, C.; Mullen, G.J.; Culleton, Noel; Breen, J.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Teagasc, 2006-01-01)
      This project set out to identify soil properties that most influence grassland production under low mineral nitrogen input conditions. Sixteen farms were selected in Counties Limerick and Clare and the soil sampled. Soil physical and chemical characteristics and soil biological aspects involved in the carbon and nitrogen cycles were studied in the laboratory. Nutrient additions to farms as well as the nature of grazing by livestock (numbers, types of grazing animals, grazing practices), grassland management, and production from the farms were recorded.
    • Spatial patterns of Fasciola hepatica and Calicophoron daubneyi infections in ruminants in Ireland and modelling of C. daubneyi infection

      Naranjo-Lucena, Amalia; Munita Corbalán, María P; Martínez-Ibeas, Ana M; McGrath, Guy; Murray, Gerard; Casey, Mícheál; Good, Barbara; Sayers, Riona; Mulcahy, Grace; Zintl, Annetta; European Union; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; 635408); 13/S/405 (Biomed Central, 2018-09-29)
      Background Fasciola hepatica has always represented a threat to Irish livestock because the Irish climate is highly suitable for the main local intermediate host of the parasite, the snail Galba truncatula. The recent clinical emergence of infections due to Calicophoron daubneyi has raised the question of whether the two parasites, which share a niche during part of their life-cycles, interact in some way. Here, we used geographical information systems (GIS) to analyse the distribution of both parasites in cattle and sheep. We also developed the first predictive model of paramphistomosis in Ireland. Results Our results indicated that, in cattle, liver fluke infection is less common than rumen fluke infection and does not exhibit the same seasonal fluctuations. Overall, we found that cattle had a higher likelihood of being infected with rumen fluke than sheep (OR = 3.134, P < 0.01). In addition, infection with one parasite increased the odds of infection with the other in both host species. Rumen fluke in cattle showed the highest spatial density of infection. Environmental variables such as soil drainage, land cover and habitat appeared to be the most important risk factors for C. daubneyi infection, followed by rainfall and vegetation. Overall the risk of infection with this parasite was predicted to be higher in the west of the country. Conclusions This study shows differences between the infection rates and spatial patterns of bovine and ovine infections with F. hepatica and C. daubneyi in Ireland. Whether the reasons for this are due to susceptibility, exposure and/or management factors is yet to be determined. Furthermore, the rumen fluke model indicates distinct risk factors and predicted distribution to those of F. hepatica, suggesting potential biological differences between both parasite species.
    • Stakeholder involvement in establishing a milk quality sub-index in dairy cow breeding goals: a Delphi approach

      Henchion, Maeve; McCarthy, M.; Resconi, Virginia C.; Berry, Donagh P.; McParland, Sinead; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; 11/SF/311 (Cambridge University Press, 17/11/2015)
      The relative weighting on traits within breeding goals are generally determined by bio-economic models or profit functions. While such methods have generally delivered profitability gains to producers, and are being expanded to consider non-market values, current approaches generally do not consider the numerous and diverse stakeholders that affect, or are affected, by such tools. Based on principles of respondent anonymity, iteration, controlled feedback and statistical aggregation of feedback, a Delphi study was undertaken to gauge stakeholder opinion of the importance of detailed milk quality traits within an overall dairy breeding goal for profit, with the aim of assessing its suitability as a complementary, participatory approach to defining breeding goals. The questionnaires used over two survey rounds asked stakeholders: (a) their opinion on incorporating an explicit sub-index for milk quality into a national breeding goal; (b) the importance they would assign to a pre-determined list of milk quality traits and (c) the (relative) weighting they would give such a milk quality sub-index. Results from the survey highlighted a good degree of consensus among stakeholders on the issues raised. Similarly, revelation of the underlying assumptions and knowledge used by stakeholders to make their judgements illustrated their ability to consider a range of perspectives when evaluating traits, and to reconsider their answers based on the responses and rationales given by others, which demonstrated social learning. Finally, while the relative importance assigned by stakeholders in the Delphi survey (4% to 10%) and the results of calculations based on selection index theory of the relative emphasis that should be placed on milk quality to halt any deterioration (16%) are broadly in line, the difference indicates the benefit of considering more than one approach to determining breeding goals. This study thus illustrates the role of the Delphi technique, as a complementary approach to traditional approaches, to defining breeding goals. This has implications for how breeding goals will be defined and in determining who should be involved in the decision-making process.
    • Stakeholder perspectives on the use of pig meat inspection as a health and welfare diagnostic tool in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland; a SWOT analysis

      Devitt, C.; Boyle, Laura; Teixeira, D. L; O’Connell, N. E; Hawe, M.; Hanlon, A.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; RSF 11/S/107 (Biomed Central, 2016-11-07)
      Background A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis is a strategic management tool applied to policy planning and decision-making. This short report presents the results of a SWOT analysis, carried out with n = 16 stakeholders i) involved in the pig industry in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and ii) in general animal welfare and food safety policy areas. As part of a larger study called PIGWELFIND, the analysis sought to explore the potential development of pig meat inspection as an animal welfare and diagnostic tool. Findings The final SWOT framework comprised two strengths, three opportunities, six weaknesses, and five threats. Issues around relationships and communication between producers and their veterinary practitioner, processors and producers were common to both the strengths and weakness clusters. Practical challenges within the processing plant were also named. Overall, the SWOT framework complements results reported in Devitt et al. (Ir Vet J 69:2, 2016) regarding problematic issues within the current system of information feedback on meat inspection especially within the Republic of Ireland, and the wider challenges of communication and problems of distrust. Conclusion The results of the SWOT analysis support the conclusions from Devitt et al. (Ir Vet J 69:2, 2016), that trust between all stakeholders across the supply chain will be essential for the development of an effective environment in which to realise the full diagnostic potential of MI data. Further stakeholder engagement could seek to apply the findings of the SWOT analysis to a policy Delphi methodology, as used elsewhere.
    • Strategies to alleviate reproductive wastage in dairy cows

      Butler, Stephen T. (Teagasc, 2007-01-01)
      grass-based systems of production. A series of studies were carried out to (i) improve our understanding of the physiological basis of poor reproductive performance; (ii) examine management and nutritional strategies to improve fertility; and (iii) examine the potential role of extended lactation to mitigate the effects of poor reproductive performance. A comprehensive characterization of the North American and New Zealand strains of Holstein-Friesian cow was carried out. North American cows produce a greater volume of milk, but yield a similar amount of fat and protein on a grass-based diet. Dry matter intake was greater for the larger NA strain, but energy balance did not differ during the first 20 weeks of lactation. Circulating concentrations of metabolic hormones and metabolites during the early lactation period were indicative of lesser bioenergetic status in the NZ strain compared to the NA strain. During established lactation, circulating concentrations of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) were greater in the NZ strain. Liver biopsies collected at day 35 and day 150 postpartum indicated that the greater circulating concentration of IGF-I was due to greater hepatic mRNA abundance of IGF-I and acid labile subunit (ALS). Embryos were collected from both strains after superovulation. A greater proportion of the embryos recovered were transferable in the NZ strain compared with the NA strain, indicating that the previously reported differences in reproductive performance were manifest as early as 7 days post-insemination. Collectively, the results of the study indicate that the NZ strain are genetically better equipped to survive on a pasture-based seasonal calving system. A study was carried out to examine the effect of dry period duration and dietary energy density on milk production, bioenergetic status and postpartum ovarian function. Omitting the dry period and increasing dietary energy density both resulted in improved energy balance and metabolic status, but omitting the dry period reduced the postpartum interval to resumption of cyclicity whereas increasing dietary energy density had no effect. Omitting the dry period reduced the inherent drive to produce milk, and allowed the cow to fully meet nutritional requirements from voluntary dry matter intake. Increased dietary energy density also allowed the cow to more closely meet nutritional requirements from a higher energy density diet, albeit at a greater milk yield. The results suggest that the mechanism by which a cow arrives at a particular energy balance status may be as important as energy balance per se. One of the main energy costs associated with lactation is milk fat. Trans 10, cis 12 conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a geometric and positional isomer of linoleic acid that reduces milk fat synthesis in a dose dependent manner. Supplementing cows with CLA resulted in improved energy balance status during the transition period and reduced postpartum body condition score loss. Some indices of reproductive performance were also improved. In seasonal systems, cows that fail to become pregnant by the end of the breeding season are typically culled and replaced. When reproductive performance is poor, this represents a major cost on dairy farms. A study was carried out to examine the feasibility of extending the lactation to 22 months, resulting in a calving interval of 24 months instead of 12 months. High yielding cows produced the equivalent of 2 normal lactations in an extended lactation system. An economic analysis indicated that an efficient spring calving system with a compact calving pattern and a 12 month calving interval is still the most profitable, but with high yielding cows extending the lactation of non-pregnant cows is more profitable than culling and replacing.
    • Stress and immunological response of heifers divergently ranked for residual feed intake following an adrenocorticotropic hormone challenge

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

      Popova, Milka; McGovern, Emily; McCabe, Matthew; Martin, Cécile; Doreau, Michel; Arbre, Marie; Meale, Sarah J.; Morgavi, Diego P.; Waters, Sinead M.; INRA; French ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development; French ministry of National Education, Higher Education, and Research; FACCE-JPI (Frontiers, 2017-05-24)
      Microorganisms in the digestive tract of ruminants differ in their functionality and ability to use feed constituents. While cecal microbiota play an important role in post-rumen fermentation of residual substrates undigested in the rumen, limited knowledge exists regarding its structure and function. In this trial we investigated the effect of dietary supplementation with linseed oil and nitrate on methane emissions and on the structure of ruminal and cecal microbiota of growing bulls. Animals were allocated to either a CTL (control) or LINNIT (CTL supplemented with 1.9% linseed and 1.0% nitrates) diet. Methane emissions were measured using the GreenFeed system. Microbial diversity was assessed using amplicon sequencing of microbial genomic DNA. Additionally, total RNA was extracted from ruminal contents and functional mcrA and mtt genes were targeted in amplicon sequencing approach to explore the diversity of functional gene expression in methanogens. LINNIT had no effect on methane yield (g/kg DMI) even though it decreased methane production by 9% (g/day; P < 0.05). Methanobrevibacter- and Methanomassiliicoccaceae-related OTUs were more abundant in cecum (72 and 24%) compared to rumen (60 and 11%) irrespective of the diet (P < 0.05). Feeding LINNIT reduced the relative abundance of Methanomassiliicoccaceae mcrA cDNA reads in the rumen. Principal component analysis revealed significant differences in taxonomic composition and abundance of bacterial communities between rumen and cecum. Treatment decreased the relative abundance of a few Ruminococcaceae genera, without affecting global bacterial community structure. Our research confirms a high level of heterogeneity in species composition of microbial consortia in the main gastrointestinal compartments where feed is fermented in ruminants. There was a parallel between the lack of effect of LINNIT on ruminal and cecal microbial community structure and functions on one side and methane emission changes on the other. These results suggest that the sequencing strategy used here to study microbial diversity and function accurately reflected the absence of effect on methane phenotypes in bulls treated with linseed plus nitrate.
    • Studies into the dynamics of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) seed mixtures

      Gilliland, T.J.; Hennessy, D.; Griffith, V. (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2011)
      The dynamic interactions of four perennial ryegrass seed mixtures sold in Northern Ireland were studied under simulated grazing and conservation managements. Mixture composition was determined as changes in phosphoglucoisomerase isozyme frequencies by calculation from known isozyme frequencies of the component varieties. Mixture productivity was measured over 4 growing seasons and compared with yields predicted from those of the components in monoculture, weighted for their actual proportion in the mixture. No significant differences were found between actual yields for mixtures and their predicted yields, but when these differences were regressed against the heading date range among the varieties in each mixture, a significant relationship was observed. A wide range in heading date among the components of the mixtures was associated with increased yield stability over years and with a declining yield advantage for the mixture compared to its components grown as monocultures. In this aspect, the mixtures showed a more rapid decline under conservation management than under simulated grazing. Mixtures also had a flatter seasonal yield-production profile than their component varieties. Tetraploid components were more aggressive than diploids, though a more open-growing diploid maintained its proportion in the sward better than a dense-growing type and manipulating the sowing ratios could be used to influence final sward composition after 2 years. It was concluded that the differences in heading date range within mixtures had a significant impact on mixture dynamics, with the tetraploid component being the most aggressive.
    • Studies of Autumn calving suckler cows, bulls at pasture and winter grazing

      Black, Alistair D; O’Riordan, Edward G.; Weldon, B.; French, Padraig (Teagasc, 2010-09)
      Most beef and dairy cows are spring calving leading to distinct seasonality of supply. Calving a proportion of the beef herd in the autumn would lead to a more uniform annual supply of cattle for slaughter and potentially increase the proportion of grazed grass in the diet of the suckler progeny. Autumn calving sucklers also facilitate the use of AI, which should enhance the product quality. This project aimed to address the technical aspects of autumn calving sucklers, which differ from those of spring calvers. The currently available international energy models were evaluated for autumn calving lactating suckler cows using the type of cow typically found in Irish suckler herds (Experiment 1). The winter accommodation of the suckler cow and calf unit and its impact on cow reproductive performance was evaluated (Experiment 2). The final part of the project evolved into component studies to determine the effect of supplementary feed on the performance of grazing bulls (Experiment 3), and the consequences of weanling cattle grazing pasture in winter as an alternative to housing them in winter (Experiments 4 to 7).
    • Studies on growth rates in pigs and the effect of birth weight

      Lynch, P.B.; Cahill, A.; Lawlor, Peadar G; Boyle, Laura; O’Doherty, J.V.; le Dividich, J.; National Development Programme (Teagasc, 2006-03-01)
      The purpose of this study was to assess some environmental and management factors that affect growth performance on commercial pig units. In experiment 1, a survey was carried out on 22 pig units of known growth performance in south-west Ireland to compare management factors between those showing poor and good growth rates. Low growth rate appears to be due to the cumulative effect of a combination of factors. Experiment 2 was conducted to determine the effects of providing an additional feeder on performance of weaned piglets. No benefits were recorded. Feed consumed from the additional feeder was a replacement for feed that otherwise would have been consumed from the control hopper feeder. Experiment 3 was designed to determine if pig performance and efficiency of growth were affected by weight at birth and at weaning. Lightweight pigs showed inferior growth performance up to the finisher period. Although they compensated some of the inferior growth towards the time of slaughter, they never reached the weights of the heavy birth-weight animals. Males were either significantly heavier or tended to be heavier than females throughout. There was no significant difference between the sexes in the number of days to slaughter. Light and heavy pigs did not differ in the levels of IGF-1 in their blood plasma; however lightweight pigs had significantly lower IgG preweaning. Experiment 4 aimed to determine whether piglet birth weight influenced growth performance, plasma IGF-1 concentrations and muscle fibre characteristics at day 42 of life. At slaughter (Day 42) light birth weight pigs were significantly (P < 0.001) lighter. Plasma IGF-1 concentration was lower by 28% (P=0.06) in light pigs. Muscle fibre cross sectional area and total fibre number were not significantly different between groups. This study should be repeated with bigger numbers.