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    • Plasma lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations associated with musculoskeletal health and incident frailty in The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA)

      Murphy, Caoileann H.; Duggan, Eoin; Davis, James; O'Halloran, Aisling M.; Knight, Silvin P.; Kenny, Rose Anne; McCarthy, Sinead N.; Romero-Ortuno, Roman; Teagasc Research Leaders 2025 programme; H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions; et al. (Elsevier BV, 2023-01)
      Introduction Lutein and zeaxanthin are diet-derived carotenoids that are proposed to help mitigate frailty risk and age-related declines in musculoskeletal health via their anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate the association between lutein and zeaxanthin status and indices of musculoskeletal health and incident frailty among community-dwelling adults aged ≥50 years in the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA). Methods Cross-sectional analyses (n = 4513) of plasma lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations and grip strength, usual gait speed, timed up-and-go (TUG), probable sarcopenia (defined as grip strength <27 kg in men, <16 kg in women), and bone mass (assessed using calcaneal broadband ultrasound stiffness index) were performed at Wave 1 (2009–2011; baseline). In the longitudinal analyses (n = 1425–3100), changes in usual gait speed (at Wave 3, 2014–2015), grip strength (Wave 4, 2016) and TUG (at Wave 5, 2018), incident probable sarcopenia (at Wave 4) and incident frailty (Fried's phenotype, Frailty Index, FRAIL Scale, Clinical Frailty Scale-classification tree, at Wave 5) were determined. Data were analysed using linear and ordinal logistic regression, adjusted for confounders. Results Cross-sectionally, plasma lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations were positively associated with usual gait speed (B [95 % CI] per 100-nmol/L higher concentration: Lutein 0.59 [0.18, 1.00], Zeaxanthin 1.46 [0.37, 2.55] cm/s) and inversely associated with TUG time (Lutein −0.07 [−0.11, −0.03], Zeaxanthin −0.14 [−0.25, −0.04] s; all p < 0.01), but not with grip strength or probable sarcopenia (p > 0.05). Plasma lutein concentration was positively associated with bone stiffness index (0.54 [0.15, 0.93], p < 0.01). Longitudinally, among participants who were non-frail at Wave 1, higher plasma lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations were associated lower odds of progressing to a higher frailty category (e.g. prefrailty or frailty) by Wave 5 (ORs 0.57–0.89, p < 0.05) based on the Fried's phenotype, FRAIL Scale and the Clinical Frailty Scale, and in the case of zeaxanthin, Frailty Index. Neither plasma lutein nor zeaxanthin concentrations were associated with changes in musculoskeletal indices or incident probable sarcopenia (p > 0.05). Conclusion Higher plasma lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations at baseline were associated with a reduced likelihood of incident frailty after ~8 years of follow up. Baseline plasma lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations were also positively associated with several indices of musculoskeletal health cross-sectionally but were not predictive of longitudinal changes in these outcomes over 4–8 years.
    • Human gut homeostasis and regeneration: the role of the gut microbiota and its metabolites

      Arenas-Gómez, Claudia Marcela; Garcia-Gutierrez, Enriqueta; Escobar, Juan S.; Cotter, Paul D.; Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant; Science Foundation Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Enterprise Ireland; European Commission; 847402; et al. (Informa UK Limited, 2022-11-11)
      The healthy human gut is a balanced ecosystem where host cells and representatives of the gut microbiota interact and communicate in a bidirectional manner at the gut epithelium. As a result of these interactions, many local and systemic processes necessary for host functionality, and ultimately health, take place. Impairment of the integrity of the gut epithelium diminishes its ability to act as an effective gut barrier, can contribute to conditions associated to inflammation processes and can have other negative consequences. Pathogens and pathobionts have been linked with damage of the integrity of the gut epithelium, but other components of the gut microbiota and some of their metabolites can contribute to its repair and regeneration. Here, we review what is known about the effect of bacterial metabolites on the gut epithelium and, more specifically, on the regulation of repair by intestinal stem cells and the regulation of the immune system in the gut. Additionally, we explore the potential therapeutic use of targeted modulation of the gut microbiota to maintain and improve gut homeostasis as a mean to improve health outcomes.
    • Irish dairy and drystock farmers’ attitudes and perceptions to planting trees and adopting agroforestry practices on their land

      Irwin, Rachel; Dhubháin, Áine Ní; Short, Ian; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship Programme; 2020026 (Elsevier BV, 2022-12)
      Due to the intensification of agriculture and transition to monoculture plantations, vast areas of native woodland have been lost from the Irish landscape. As these trees gradually vanished from agricultural land, the use of traditional, ancient agroforestry practices dwindled. Currently, forestry cover in Ireland is 25% lower than the European average, with the rate of afforestation remaining critically low. Agroforestry has been cited as a means to increase forestry cover in Ireland while continuing to produce viable high quality agricultural products on the same parcel of land. However, even with a range of afforestation schemes available, farmers exhibit an evident reluctance to adopt agroforestry. This research aimed to examine the main attitudes and perceptions of Irish dairy and drystock farmers to planting trees on their land and adopting agroforestry practices. The majority of farmers included within the dataset exhibited a positive attitude towards trees on their farms, with the main negative behavioural beliefs relating to impacts on pasture. Family and Teagasc (The Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority) are the highest cited influential bodies while the majority of farmers exhibit high perceived behavioural control. Intention rates to plant trees are high, albeit mainly on marginal areas of the farm. Agroforestry knowledge is low in Ireland with the word itself eliciting negative responses amongst the farming community. The results provide a comprehensive understanding of the main attitudes, influential bodies and barriers that affect agroforestry uptake in Ireland.
    • Effects of early spring N-fertilisation strategies on grass production and nitrogen recovery

      McNamara, K.A.; Casey, I.; Humphreys, James; European Union; Irish Dairy Levy (Teagasc, 2022-11-02)
      Application rate and application date of fertiliser nitrogen (N) are important factors determining grass production response and N recovery by grassland in spring. This study was conducted at two sites with different soil types (sandy loam and clay loam) in Ireland in spring 2005 and 2006. In comparison with a non-fertilised (zero-N) control, urea N was applied at rates of 60 and 90 kg N/ha either as single or split applications on eight dates ranging between 11 January and 14 March. Grass was harvested on four occasions between 21 February and 25 April. Split fertiliser N applications provided the best outcome in relation to grass DM production, apparent recovery of fertiliser N (ARFN) and cost of additional grass produced compared with single applications. Likewise, in this study the optimum date to commence fertiliser N application was 21 January combined with a second application on 26 February in terms of the cost-effectiveness of the fertiliser N input to increase grass DM production.
    • Lipid and protein oxidation and colour stability during display in high oxygen modified atmosphere packaging of beef from late-maturing bulls fed rumen protected fish oil

      Siphambili, S.; Moloney, Aidan; O'Riordan, Edward G.; McGee, Mark; Monahan, F.J.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 11/SF/322 (Teagasc, 2022-11-02)
      Increasing the concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in beef enhances its nutritional value but may compromise its oxidative shelf life. In this experiment, the impact of inclusion of rumen protected fish oil (PFO) in the finishing diet of late-maturing bulls on muscle fatty acid profile, antioxidant content, lipid stability, colour and protein oxidation was investigated. Charolais-sired suckler bulls were offered ad libitum, for 101 d pre-slaughter, a barley-based concentrate (C) or a concentrate containing rumen PFO. Following post-mortem ageing for 14 d, M. Longissimus thoracis muscle was subjected to simulated retail display (4°C, 1,000 lux for 12 h out of 24 h) for 3, 7 and 10 d in modified atmosphere packs (O2:CO2; 80:20). The concentrations of C22:6n-3, n-6 PUFA and total PUFA and the n-6:n-3 PUFA ratio were higher (P < 0.001) in muscle of PFO bulls compared to C bulls, while the α-tocopherol concentration was lower (P < 0.01). The concentrations of C18:3n-6, C20:4n-6, n-3 PUFA and highly peroxidisable PUFA were lower (P < 0.05) on day 14 compared to day 0 of display. Lipid oxidation after 10 d of display was higher (P < 0.05) in muscle of PFO bulls compared to C bulls but not to an extent that would be detected by a consumer. Colour stability was not affected. It is concluded that the increase in PUFA concentration achieved had minor effects on bull beef shelf life.
    • Field margin botanical diversity, composition and quality on intensively managed farming systems

      Larkin, Julie; Ó hUallacháin, Daire; Finn, John; Sheridan, Helen; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship Programme (Teagasc, 2022-11-02)
      Remaining semi-natural habitats are important refuges for farmland biodiversity, and field margins are one such habitat. Field margins consist of strips of herbaceous vegetation that are located between field boundary features such as hedgerows and the main grassland or arable field. However, little is known about their extent or ecological quality on intensively managed farmlands in Ireland. This lack of knowledge can only be addressed through the application of a standardised assessment methodology, which we developed and implemented in this study. A survey of field margins was conducted on 92 intensively managed farms, across three enterprise types (arable, beef and dairy farms) in Ireland. We describe the botanical composition and assess the ecological quality of field margins based on threshold levels of the percentage cover of positive, neutral and negative botanical indicator species that are predominantly informed by existing European Union (EU)-accepted methods for vegetation classification. Positive indicator species occurred in 77% of margins and had a mean cover of 10%. There was a high incidence of negative indicator species, occurring in 93% of margins with a mean cover of 55%. Using our quality appraisal system, 16% of field margins were of high or very high quality, and the majority (55%) were of low or very low quality. Compared to either arable or dairy farms, beef farms had a greater percentage of higher-quality margins, higher species richness and greater percentage of positive indicator species. Retaining areas of high-quality farmland habitat and enhancing those areas that have become ecologically degraded will be key to achieving the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) objective of protecting landscapes and biodiversity. However, the implementation of appropriate management decisions requires effective evaluation of the current ecological condition of these habitats. Field margins are ubiquitous habitats in Irish farmlands and comprise a significant proportion of overall farmland habitat area. However, our results show that the majority in more intensively managed systems are in a botanically impoverished condition. Our standardised field margin quality assessment technique may offer an appropriate method of tracking change in habitat quality in response to conservation actions to improve habitat quality.
    • Extraction of plant protein from green leaves: Biomass composition and processing considerations

      Pérez-Vila, Sara; Fenelon, Mark; O'Mahony, James A.; Gómez Gómez-Mascaraque, Laura; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship Programme; 2020032 (Elsevier BV, 2022-12)
      There is an increasing need to explore alternative sources of proteins for food applications. Green leaves contain high levels of the enzyme RuBisCO, representing a source of protein with good functional and nutritional properties. However, the optimal conditions for extraction and purification of RuBisCO at a large scale have not yet been defined. This review discusses the main factors affecting the extraction of proteins from green leaves, from plant composition in terms of protein content and other compounds that affect the yield and quality of extractable protein, to the essential steps and challenges faced during extraction and purification, including considerations for achieving food-grade ingredient status. There are some key factors to consider when developing a protein concentrate for human consumption. The first step is the selection of an optimal raw material; plant tissues are complex matrices that require thorough characterization, including non-protein nitrogen and other undesirable compounds. The effect of the extraction and purification process on functionality, oxidation and proteolytic stability should also be considered. Moreover, the appropriate removal of undesired compounds must be considered to obtain plant protein concentrates suitable for food products.
    • Association between the prion protein genotype and animal performance traits in a large multibreed sheep population

      McHugh, Noirin; O'Brien, A.C.; Pabiou, T.; McDermott, K.; Berry, Donagh; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 14/S/849 (Elsevier, 2022-07-31)
      Genetic susceptibility to scrapie, a fatal disease of sheep and goats, is modulated by polymorphisms in the prion protein (PrP). Neither the frequency of the PrP genotypes nor their association with animal performance has been investigated in a large multibreed Irish sheep population. Scrapie genotypes were available on 16 416 animals; the breeds represented included purebred Belclare (733), Charollais (333), Suffolk (739), Texel (1 857), Vendeen (191), and crossbreds (12 563). Performance data on lambing, lamb and ewe performance as well as health traits were available. The association between alternative approaches of describing the PrP genotype (i.e. 15 individually called PrP genotypes, five genotype classes representing susceptibility to scrapie, or number of ARR haplotypes) and animal performance were quantified using animal linear mixed models. All 15 of the possible scrapie genotypes were detected, although the frequency differed by breed. The frequency of the five PrP haplotypes in the entire population were 0.70 (ARR), 0.15 (ARQ), 0.11 (ARH), 0.02 (AHQ) and 0.01 (VRQ); the most susceptible haplotype (VRQ) was only detected in purebred Texels and crossbreds. No association was detected between the PrP genotype of either the animal or dam and any of the lambing traits (i.e. lambing difficulty score, perinatal mortality and birth weight). With the exception of ultrasound muscle depth, no association between the PrP genotype and any of the lamb performance traits (i.e. lamb BW and carcass) was observed. Lambs carrying the category four PrP genotype (i.e. ARR/VRQ) had 1.20 (SE = 0.45) mm, 1.38 (SE = 0.12) mm, 1.47 (S = 0.25) mm shallower ultrasound muscle depth relative to lambs of the less susceptible scrapie categories of 1, 2, 3, respectively (P < 0.05). Nonetheless, no association between PrP genotype and lamb carcass conformation, the ultimate end goal of producers, was detected. Ewe litter size, body condition score or lameness did not differ by PrP genotype of the ewe (P > 0.05). For ewe mature BW, ARH/VRQ ewes differed from most other ewe PrP genotypes and were, on average, 3.79 (SE = 1.66) kg heavier than ARR/ARR genotype ewes. Lamb dag score differed by dam PrP genotype (P < 0.05), although the differences were small. Results from this study show that scrapie is segregating within the Irish sheep population, but the PrP genotype was not associated with most traits investigated and, where associations were detected, the biological significance was minimal. This suggests minimal impact of selection on PrP genotype on performance, at least for the traits investigated in the present study.
    • A novel hybrid coagulation-constructed wetland system for the treatment of dairy wastewater

      Mohamed, A.Y.A.; Siggins, A.; Healy, M.G.; Ó hUallacháin, Daire; Fenton, Owen; Tuohy, P.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship; RMIS-0386 (Elsevier, 2022-07-29)
      Constructed wetlands (CWs) are a cost-effective and sustainable treatment technology that may be used on farms to treat dairy wastewater (DWW). However, CWs require a large area for optimal treatment and have poor long-term phosphorus removal. To overcome these limitations, this study uses a novel, pilot-scale coagulation-sedimentation process prior to loading CWs with DWW. This hybrid system, which was operated on an Irish farm over an entire milking season, performed well at higher hydraulic loading rates than conventional CWs, and obtained removal efficiencies ≥99 % for all measured water quality parameters (chemical oxygen demand, total nitrogen and phosphorus, total suspended solids and turbidity), which complied with EU directives concerning urban wastewater treatment. Overall, the hybrid coagulation-CW is a promising technology that requires a smaller area than conventional CWs and minimal operator input, and produces high effluent quality.
    • Scenarios for European agricultural policymaking in the era of digitalisation

      Ehlers, Melf-Hinrich; Finger, Robert; El Benni, Nadja; Gocht, Alexander; Sørensen, Claus Aage Grøn; Gusset, Markus; Pfeifer, Catherine; Poppe, Krijn; Regan, Aine; Rose, David Christian; et al. (Elsevier, 2021-11-26)
      CONTEXTDigitalisation affects the agri-food sector and its governance. However, what digitalisation of the sector will imply for future agricultural policymaking remains unclear. OBJECTIVEThe objective of the study is to develop and evaluate explorative scenarios of digitalisation in the agri-food sector of Europe that are explicitly relevant to agricultural policy. The study aims to provide guidance for strategic development of agricultural policy to address the potentials, uncertainties and unknowns arising with digitalisation of the sector. METHODSWe combine a Delphi study and a participatory scenario workshop to develop and evaluate plausible explorative scenarios of digitalisation of Europe's agri-food sector. For all scenarios we identify gaps in achieving a range of important European agricultural policy goals, drawing on the Delphi study and desk-based analysis. Subsequently we deduce strategies to address these agricultural policy gaps. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONSFour scenarios of digitalisation of the agri-food sector were developed for Europe in 2030. They comprise of 1) digitalisation of the sector following current directions at current rates as a baseline scenario, 2) strong digitalisation of a regulatory government, 3) use of autonomous farming technology and 4) digitalised food business. These explorative scenarios entail various gaps in achieving European agricultural policy goals. Our findings suggest that the baseline scenario needs strategies to ramp up technological and institutional infrastructure for digitalisation. The other scenarios need strategies to prevent risks, e.g., of technological failures or undesired social impacts. They also need strategies to cater for special cases and diversity, e.g., of ecosystems and farming practices. Across the scenarios, it seems useful to increase digital competencies of the stakeholders. SIGNIFICANCEThe study is the first that derives implications for policy strategies from explorative scenarios of future digitalisation of agricultural systems that target gaps in achieving agricultural policy goals. The combination of developing and analysing scenarios generated findings that are of significance to policymaking stakeholders and researchers alike, who all need to address the uncertainties arising with future digitalisation of the agri-food sector.
    • Characteristics of traditional Chinese acidic rice soup (rice-acid) prepared with different fermentation methods

      Liu, Na; Qin, Likang; Pan, Jihong; Miao, Song; National Natural Science Foundation of China; Technology platform and talent team plan of Guizhou; Graduate Research Fund Project of Guizhou; Industry-University-Research Cooperation Project of Guizhou; China Scholarship Council; 32060530; et al. (Elsevier, 2021-11-25)
      Rice-acid, a Chinese traditional acidic rice soup (rice-acid), is widely accepted by consumers due to its unique flavor and anti-oxidation, anti-aging and immunity enhancement functions. This study confirmed that L-lactic acid and malic acid were the main organic acids in rice-acid. Low-temperature rice-acid samples produced by enterprises had the highest signal intensity of sour taste. The total content of free amino acids in different fermented rice-acid samples were in the range of 0.003–0.468 mg/g. 42 key volatile flavor compounds were identified in rice-acid. 8 volatile compounds with a higher contribution to the aroma of rice-acid were respectively acetic acid, 1-octen-3-ol, 2-heptanol, ethyl acetate, propyl propionate, hexanal, nonanal, and 2,3-butanedione. The interaction between lactic acid bacteria (3.00 × 103–7.02 × 106 CFU/mL) and yeasts (5.04 × 104–2.25 × 108 CFU/mL) affected the formation of taste and aroma components in rice-acid. The physicochemical characteristics including titratable acidity, pH, reducing sugars, amino acid nitrogen, gamma-aminobutyric acid showed significant differences between low-temperature fermentation samples and high-temperature fermentation samples. In addition, relationships linking all data through Pearson coefficient correlation were also reported. In summary, the study can be used to improve the quality of rice-acid products.
    • Characterization and gelling properties of a bioactive extract from Ascophyllum nodosum obtained using a chemical-free approach

      Gómez-Mascaraque, Laura G.; Martínez-Sanz, Marta; Martínez-López, Rosalia; Martínez-Abad, Antonio; Panikuttira, Bhavya; López-Rubio, Amparo; Tuohy, Maria G.; Hogan, Sean A.; Brodkorb, Andre; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; et al. (Elsevier, 2021-05-29)
      The bioactivity and gelling properties of a carbohydrate-rich algal extract obtained from locally harvested Ascophyllum nodosum seaweed using a chemical-free approach were investigated for its potential interest in food applications. Physicochemical characterisation and compositional analysis of the extract, using FTIR, biochemical methods and monosaccharide analysis, confirmed the presence of alginates and fucoidans, although the main polysaccharide present in it was laminarin. Significant amounts of phenolic compounds (~9 ​mg phloroglucinol/100 ​mg sample) were also detected. As a result, the extract exhibited good antioxidant activity. It also showed promising prebiotic potential, promoting the growth of beneficial Lactobacillus sp. and Bifidobacteria sp. when compared with commercial prebiotics, but not that of pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli or P. aeruginosa. The gelling properties of the raw extract were explored to optimize hydrogel bead formation by external gelation in CaCl2 solutions. This was enhanced at neutral to alkaline pHs and high extract and CaCl2 concentrations. The mechanical strength, nano- and microstructure of the hydrogel beads prepared under optimised conditions were determined using compression tests, synchrotron small- and wide-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS/WAXS) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). It was concluded that the raw algal extract at neutral pH had potential for use as a gelling agent, although further enrichment with alginate improved the mechanical properties of the obtained gels. The advantages and disadvantages of applying the non-purified algal extract in comparison with purified carbohydrates are discussed.
    • Exploring the relationship between mastitis risk perceptions and farmers’ readiness to engage in milk recording

      Regan, Aine; Clifford, Seán; Burrell, Alison M.G.; Balaine, Lorraine; Dillon, Emma Jane; Animal Health Ireland (Elsevier, 2021-08-31)
      The need to move towards Selective Dry Cow Therapy (SDCT) has become increasingly pertinent as a means to reduce the use of antibiotics in the dairy sector. With the EU 2022 ban on prophylactic antibiotics at drying off, practices on some farms will need to drastically change. In Ireland, one particular challenge to the sector-wide transition to SDCT is the lack of widespread uptake of milk recording across dairy farms, a decision support tool which can support mastitis control and help identify cows to select for SDCT. The current study examined readiness to engage in milk recording amongst Irish dairy farmers, and specifically investigated the role of mastitis risk perceptions in shaping farmers’ readiness. The study explores the multifaceted nature of risk perception as a construct shaping farmers’ attitudes. An online survey was carried out with 197 Irish dairy farmers exploring their attitudes towards mastitis and milk recording. A cluster analysis classified farmers according to their mastitis risk perceptions, with 3 segments identified with differing risk perception profiles. Elevated mastitis risk perceptions were linked to an increased readiness to milk record. However, this relationship was not universal across all farmers. One segment of farmers in the current study maintain low mastitis risk perceptions and remain unmotivated to engage in milk recording. The study concludes that targeted risk communication strategies related to mastitis and milk recording are needed to encourage the move towards SDCT and reduced AMR. Results suggest that the types of risk communication strategies – message framing and two-way risk communication – should reflect farmers’ types of mastitis risk perceptions to have the most effective impact on milk recording uptake.
    • The potential of non-starter lactic acid bacteria from Cheddar cheese to colonise the gut

      Leeuwendaal, N.; STANTON, CATHERINE; O'Toole, P.W.; Beresford, Tom P.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship; Science Foundation Ireland; JPI Food Processing for Health; 2014073 (Elsevier, 2021-08-31)
      This study was undertaken to assess the potential of Non-Starter Lactic Acid Bacteria (NSLAB) from Cheddar cheese to survive gastric transit and display probiotic-related traits including bile salt hydrolase activity, the ability to adhere to the gut epithelium and inhibition of enteropathogen binding. Populations of NSLAB, up to 107 CFU/g per cheese were recovered following exposure of cheese to Simulated Stomach Duodenum Passage (SSDP) conditions. A total of 240 isolates were randomly selected from twelve Cheddar cheeses and assessed for probiotic traits. Two strains Lactobacillus paracasei DPC 7150 and Lactobacillus rhamnosus DPC 7102 showed the most probiotic potential. The Lb. paracasei and Lb. rhamnosus strains displayed adhesion rates of 64% and 79%, respectively and inhibited binding of pathogenic Escherichia coli by >20%. This research demonstrates that Cheddar cheese harbours potentially beneficial bacteria, a large portion of which can survive simulated digestion and potentially exhibit health beneficial effects once ingested.
    • An evaluation of four private animal health and welfare standards and associated quality assurance programmes for dairy cow production

      More, S.J.; Marchewka, J.; Hanlon, A.; Balzani, A.; Boyle, Laura Ann; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; RSF 17/S/230 (Elsevier, 2021-12-31)
      Private standards in animal health and welfare (AHW) and associated quality assurance (QA) programmes are an important instrument for food policy with the potential to substantially improve AHW. However, there are concerns that they do not necessarily do so. In this study, we evaluated four private AHW standards and associated QA programmes for dairy cow production, from Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, using an existing (but adapted) conceptual framework. The framework considers criteria relating to programme goals including relevance to AHW, programme beneficiaries, effectiveness, efficiency and transparency. The current study focused on information that was publicly available online. We found limited objective information to support programme claims, although there were considerable differences between programmes. Across all programmes, problems were identified with respect to transparency, and attempts to scrutinise claims would not be a straightforward process for most consumers. Among the programmes, there were notable examples of best-practice in AHW, relating to science-based evidence, separation of risk assessment and risk management, animal-based measures, farm benchmarking, ongoing programme-level metrics and measurement, and ongoing programme review. There is a need for careful scrutiny of private standards and QA programmes, to provide consumers with assurance with respect to programme effectiveness and transparency. Further, it is important that programme efficiencies are maximised. There is a strong case for regulatory oversight of private standards in AHW and associated QA programmes. This could be within existing or defined policy instruments, both to facilitate the positive impact of these programmes and to build confidence among consumers of the validity of programme claims.
    • Application of machine-learning methods to milk mid-infrared spectra for discrimination of cow milk from pasture or total mixed ration diets

      Frizzarin, Maria; O'Callaghan, Tom; Murphy, T.B.; Hennessey, Deirdre; Casa, A.; Science Foundation Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 16/RC/3835; 18/SIRG/5562 (Elsevier, 2021-12-31)
      The prevalence of “grass-fed” labeled food products on the market has increased in recent years, often commanding a premium price. To date, the majority of methods used for the authentication of grass-fed source products are driven by auditing and inspection of farm records. As such, the ability to verify grass-fed source claims to ensure consumer confidence will be important in the future. Mid-infrared (MIR) spectroscopy is widely used in the dairy industry as a rapid method for the routine monitoring of individual herd milk composition and quality. Further harnessing the data from individual spectra offers a promising and readily implementable strategy to authenticate the milk source at both farm and processor levels. Herein, a comprehensive comparison of the robustness, specificity, and accuracy of 11 machine-learning statistical analysis methods were tested for the discrimination of grass-fed versus non-grass-fed milks based on the MIR spectra of 4,320 milk samples collected from cows on pasture or indoor total mixed ration–based feeding systems over a 3-yr period. Linear discriminant analysis and partial least squares discriminant analysis (PLS-DA) were demonstrated to offer the greatest level of accuracy for the prediction of cow diet from MIR spectra. Parsimonious strategies for the selection of the most discriminating wavelengths within the spectra are also highlighted.
    • A survey of biosecurity and health management practices on Irish dairy farms engaged in contract-rearing

      McCarthy, M.C.; O'Grady, L.; McAloon, C.G.; Mee, John F.; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship (Elsevier, 2021-12-31)
      A survey was conducted to investigate potential differences in biosecurity and health management practices on Irish dairy farms that sent their heifers for contract-rearing (source dairy farms, SDF; n = 62) and those rearing their own heifers (control farms, CF; n = 50). Participating farmers were surveyed by postal questionnaire between September and November 2018. The overall response rate was 93%. Results show that structurally, SDF were larger, less fragmented, and more specialized than CF. Outsourcing of labor-intensive activities to external contractors was more common among SDF than CF, exposing them to potentially increased biosecurity risks associated with animal movements, use of shared equipment, and increased frequency of farm visitors. The majority of SDF sent heifers to a single-origin rearing facility (70%), with heifers most commonly arriving at the rearing unit between 2 and 4 mo (53%) and returning to the dairy farm between 18 and 21 mo of age (56%). Despite the increased biosecurity risk associated with contract-rearing, implementation of disease prevention measures was not superior on SDF compared with CF. For both farm types, there was scope for improvement to visitor biosecurity protocols, quarantine procedures, colostrum feeding practices, and hygiene of calving areas. This research provides an overview of the demographics and farm management practices implemented by dairy farmers engaged in contract-rearing of replacement heifers, and will serve to inform farmers, veterinary advisors, and policy makers.
    • Kinetic modelling of ultrasound-assisted extraction of phenolics from cereal brans

      Milićević, Nataša; Kojić, Predrag; Sakač, Marijana; Mišan, Aleksandra; Kojić, Jovana; Perussello, Camila; Banjac, Vojislav; Pojić, Milica; Tiwari, Brijesh K; European Union; et al. (Elsevier, 2021-11-30)
      Cereal brans are by‐products of the milling of cereal grains, which are mainly used as low value ingredients in animal feed. Wheat and oat bran is a rich source of bioactives and phytochemicals, especially phenolic compounds. Within this study, the application of ultrasound (US) technology to assist the extraction of phenolics from oat and wheat bran was investigated (20–45 kHz). Peleg’s mathematical model was used to study the kinetics of ultrasound-assisted extraction (UAE) and subsequent stirring of total phenolic compounds (TPC). The surface morphology of cereal brans after extraction was studied using SEM analysis. The excellent agreement was determined between the values of TPC calculated from Peleg’s mathematical model and actual experimental results. The constant that represents a time required for the initial phenolic concentration to be extracted to one-half of its initial value has been introduced (K1/2). It was shown that the TPC extraction kinetics was dependent only on K1/2 enabling fast kinetics fitting and comparison between extraction rates. Moreover, different values of K1/2 constant could indicate the differences in brans composition and consequently different influence of US pretreatment on these samples.
    • The role of colloids and other fractions in the below-ground delivery of phosphorus from agricultural hillslopes to streams

      Fresne, Maëlle; Jordan, Phil; Daly, Karen; Fenton, Owen; Mellander, Per-Erik; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship programme (Elsevier, 2022-01-31)
      Colloids can be important for facilitated transfer of phosphorus (P) to groundwater (GW) and contribute to elevated P concentrations later delivered to surface water. To assess the role of colloidal P and other P fractions in delivery processes via below-ground pathways, this study investigated the influence of catchment and flow event characteristics on particulate (>450 nm), medium-sized colloidal (200–450 nm) and fine (<200 nm) P fractions in two agricultural hillslopes (TG, TA). Total and dissolved P fractions and their derivatives were also monitored. Samples in both stream and GW were taken weekly during baseflow conditions and every 2 h during storm conditions. Higher frequency monitoring of streamflow was also conducted to delineate hydrological flowpaths and determine P loads and hysteresis processes. Results indicated that during baseflow fine P was dominant in the streams (80 to 100 % of total P) and in shallow GW in TA (83 to 96 %) whereas in TG shallow GW was dominated by PP (55 to 96 %) possibly due to colloidal Fe-P complexes. Similarly, in TG shallow GW was dominated by PP (79 to 81 %) during high flow events. During a larger flow event (within the period of land fertilization) the quickflow pathway (24 % of total flow) delivered 3.2 g ha−1 of PP which was dominant in the stream (44 to 68 %). A smaller flow event (within the period of prohibited land fertilization) facilitated delivery of P via deeper baseflow pathways (87 % of total flow) as fine reactive P (1.3 g ha−1), also dominant in the stream (73 to 78 %). The research indicated a very limited presence of medium-sized colloidal P but a large presence of fine P that may contribute to elevating P concentrations above environmental thresholds. Further work should constrain the controlling factors for colloidal P presence/absence and also on the extent and speciation of coarser and finer fractions in the hillslope to stream continuum.
    • The effect of natural and induced calving of beef heifers on stress-related gene expression and maternal health and immunity

      Beltman, M.E.; Lewis, J.; McCabe, M.; Keogh, Kate; Kenny, David A.; UCD Seed Funding Scheme; SF827 (Elsevier, 2022-06-30)
      The peri-partum processes can exert stress on a cow on many levels. There is little evidence about acute stress around the calving event and subsequent potential effects for the cows’ immunological status or subsequent reproductive health. To investigate this, 55 crossbred recipient beef heifers carrying purebred Simmental embryos were assigned to one of three groups on day 285 of gestation: (i) control (no parturition induction treatment; n = 19); (ii) induction of parturition with corticosteroid (n = 20) and (iii) induction of parturition with corticosteroid plus prostaglandin (n = 16). Interval from induction of parturition to calving and calving ease was recorded. Reproductive tract examinations were conducted on Day 21 (D21) and Day 42, and a sample was obtained for the determination of uterine cytology on D21. Blood samples were taken from the dams two weeks before parturition, one day after parturition (D1) and two weeks after parturition (D14) for gene expression and cortisol and calcium concentration determination. Calves were weighed at birth and subsequently every week until they were 10 weeks of age. A colostrum sample was taken immediately after calving and stored for subsequent Immunoglobin G (IgG) concentration analysis. Data were analysed using ANOVA with posthoc Tukey, Spearman correlation and stepwise backwards linear regression using SAS. Quantitative reverse transcription PCR was performed on the following immune genes: Interleukins IL1a and b, IL2, IL4, IL8, Tumour Necrosis Factor Alpha, Interferon-gamma, Lymphotoxin, Toll-Like Receptor, Nuclear factor of kappa light polypeptide gene enhancer in B cells 1 and 2, glucocorticoid receptor alpha, as well as the neutrophil genes that regulate inflammation: Fas, L-selectin, MMP-9 and BPI. The results show that compared with non-induced contemporaries, induction has no negative effect on dystocia or subsequent calf weight gain but can have a positive effect on colostral IgG concentration. Blood calcium concentrations on both D1 and D14 postcalving are associated with subsequent uterine health. Parturition events were reflected in temporal changes in the expression of the cytokines IFNγ, TNFα, IL1b, IL4, IL8 and Haptoglobin in the dams’ blood, all of which are associated with the immune competence of the cow during this period. The conclusion is that induction of calving can have a positive effect on colostral IgG concentration. Calcium concentrations postcalving are associated with subsequent reproductive tract health. Events associated with the peri- and postpartum period are all reflected in temporal changes in immune function-related cytokines.