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Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: MC-ITN | Phase: FP7-PEOPLE-ITN-2008 | Award Amount: 2.17M | Year: 2009

The EU25 produce approximately 132 million tonnes of milk from 24.3 million cows on 1.76 million farm holdings. Ruminant animals account for up to 20% of the world methane production with the EU25 dairy population producing approximately 3.2 million tonnes of methane (CH4) per year. Many EU countries have specific and binding commitments relating to the reduction of GHG emissions, and all sectors of the economy are coming under increasing scrutiny in relation to their share in the overall emissions target. Little work has been done on the role of dairy cow genetics in dairy system emissions, particularly considering the role of genetics in the whole farming system, including feeding strategy and management policies (e.g., energy balance, housing periods, fertilisation and manure management). GREENHOUSEMILK will help us understand the role of energy efficiency and partitioning in the overall GHG output of dairy systems and develop innovative tools to help farmers select environmentally friendly bulls to suit their system and how to manage those bulls daughters in an appropriate manner. GREENHOUSEMILK will harness statistical and genetic tools to elucidate the genetics of emissions in dairy cattle and develop innovative and integrative tools that address the environmental impact of dairy farming, thus underpinning a high priority policy area. GREENHOUSEMILK will build on data, resources and expertise being developed in the FP7 KBBE-2007-1 funded project RobustMilk. Utilising the resources and skills from RobustMilk to address other questions is highly beneficial and synergistic and will add to the outcomes of both projects. GREENHOUSEMILK will examine: 1. causes of variation in CHG emissions in dairy cows, 2. genomic tools to help select for reduced CHG emissions, 3. integrating animal CHG emissions into farm systems models and, 4. developing selection indices that include environmental impact.


Byrne T.J.,AbacusBio Ltd | Byrne T.J.,University of Otago | Amer P.R.,AbacusBio Ltd | Fennessy P.F.,AbacusBio Ltd | And 2 more authors.
Animal | Year: 2012

Using internet-based software known as 1000Minds, choice-experiment surveys were administered to experts and farmers from the Irish sheep industry to capture their preferences with respect to the relative importance-represented by part-worth utilities-of target traits in the definition of a breeding objective for sheep in Ireland. Sheep production in Ireland can be broadly separated into lowland and hill farming systems; therefore, each expert was asked to answer the survey first as if he or she were a lowland farmer and second as a hill farmer. In addition to the experts, a group of lowland and a group of hill farmers were surveyed to assess whether, and to what extent, the groups' preferences differ from the experts' preferences. The part-worth utilities obtained from the surveys were converted into relative economic value terms per unit change in each trait. These measures-referred to as 'preference economic values' (pEVs)-were compared with economic values for the traits obtained from bio-economic models. The traits 'value per lamb at the meat processor' and 'lamb survival to slaughter' were revealed as being the two most important traits for the surveyed experts responding as lowland and hill farmers, respectively. In contrast, 'number of foot baths per year for ewes' and 'number of anthelmintic treatments per year for ewes' were the two least important traits. With the exception of 'carcase fat class' (P < 0.05), there were no statistically significant differences in the mean pEVs obtained from the surveyed experts under both the lowland and hill farming scenarios. Compared with the economic values obtained from bio-economic models, the pEVs for 'lambing difficulty' when the experts responded as lowland farmers were higher (P < 0.001); and they were lower (P < 0.001) for 'carcase conformation class', 'carcase fat class' (less negative) and 'ewe mature weight' (less negative) under both scenarios. Compared with surveyed experts, pEVs from lowland farmers differed significantly for 'lambing difficulty', 'lamb survival to slaughter', 'average days to slaughter of lambs', 'number of foot baths per year for ewes', 'number of anthelmintic treatments per year for ewes' and 'ewe mature weight'. Compared with surveyed experts, pEVs from hill farmers differed significantly for 'lambing difficulty', 'average days to slaughter of lambs' and 'number of foot baths per year for ewes'. This study indicates that preference-based tools have the potential to contribute to the definition of breeding objectives where production and price data are not available. © 2011 The Animal Consortium.


Byrne T.J.,AbacusBio Ltd | Byrne T.J.,University of Otago | Amer P.R.,AbacusBio Ltd | Fennessy P.F.,AbacusBio Ltd | And 5 more authors.
Livestock Science | Year: 2010

Breeding objectives for meat sheep in Ireland have been defined and used in the development of selection sub-indices to provide commercial producers with an economic comparison of animals for specific performance trait groups. Using trait-by-trait bio-economic models and a range of methodologies, economic weights (in € per lamb born per genetic standard deviation in the trait) have been calculated for maternal and terminal sire performance traits as follows: production traits; -€1.41 for days to slaughter, €0.35 for carcase conformation class, -€0.52 for carcase fat class, lambing traits; -€0.69 for lambing difficulty for single-bearing ewes, -€0.37 for lambing difficulty for multiple-bearing ewes, €1.15 for lamb survival, maternal traits; €0.83 for number of lambs born, -€1.49 for ewe mature weight, health traits; -€0.09 for lamb foot rot, and -€0.82 for ewe foot rot. Results indicate the significant value of improving the ability of lambs to survive to weaning, without increasing number of lambs born. The highly negative economic weight for both days to slaughter and mature size represents a powerful unfavourable relationship between the two traits. Economic values for lambing difficulty and foot rot represent the significant costs these traits have in the Irish sheep production system.In the early stages of the development of the genetic improvement program for sheep in Ireland the breeding objective defined in this paper provides directed emphasis for trait recording, selection strategies, and mating systems. In addition the economic weights provide indications as to how much genetic improvement in a specific trait would be worth paying for. The proposed formulation of the total economic index as sub-indices provides the ability for commercial farmers to adjust breeding emphasis towards specific market outcomes or address key production aspects in their particular farming system. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.


The requirement for sustainable food production is a global issue to which the EU contributes as a major livestock producer. It is critical to improve animal production efficiency while sustaining environmentally friendly milk production. More profitable dairy production requires increased milk yield, cow health, longevity and fertility; reduced environmental footprint and optimised use of inputs. These are multifactorial problems to achieve. GplusE aims to identify the genotypes controlling biological variation in the important phenotypes of dairy cows, to appreciate how these are influenced by environmental and management factors and thus allow more informed and accurate use of genomic selection. GplusE will link new genomic data in dairy cows to a comprehensive array of phenotypic information going well beyond those existing traits recorded by dairy breeding organisations. It will develop systems that will focus herd and cow management on key time points in production that have a major influence on the rest of the productive cycle including efficiency, environment, physiological status, health, fertility and welfare. This will significantly advance the science, efficiency and management practices in dairy production well beyond the current state-of-the art. The major bioinformatics element of the proposal will illuminate the bovine genome and ensure a reverse flow of information to annotate human and other mammalian genomes; it will ensure training of animal scientists (PhDs & Postdocs) to a high skill level in the use of bioinformatics. The end result of this project will be a comprehensive, integrated identification of genomic-phenotypic associations relevant to dairy production. This information will be translated into benefits for animal breeding and management that will considerably improve sustainable dairy production. It will provide basic biological information into the mechanisms by which genotype, environment and their interaction influence performance.


More S.J.,University College Dublin | McKenzie K.,University College Dublin | O'Flaherty J.,Animal Health Ireland | Doherty M.L.,University College Dublin | And 2 more authors.
Preventive Veterinary Medicine | Year: 2010

Agriculture is a very important contributor to the Irish economy. In Ireland, national animal health services have been a government, rather than an industry, responsibility. In 2009, Animal Health Ireland (AHI) was established to provide a partnership approach to national leadership of non-regulatory animal health issues (those not subject to national and/or EU regulation). The objectives of this study were to elicit opinion from experts and farmers about non-regulatory animal health issues facing Irish livestock industries, including prioritisation of animal health issues and identification of opportunities to maximise the effective use of AHI resources. The study was conducted with experts using Policy Delphi methodology over three rounds, and with farmers using a priority identification survey. Non-regulatory bovine diseases/conditions were prioritised by both experts and farmers based on impact and international competitiveness. For each high-priority disease/condition, experts were asked to provide an assessment based on cost, impact, international perception, impediment to international market access and current resource usage effectiveness. Further information was also sought from experts about resource allocation preferences, methods to improve education and coordination, and innovative measures to improve prevention and management. There was close agreement between responses from experts and dairy farmers: each gave highest priority to 3 diseases with a biosecurity risk (subsequently termed 'biosecure diseases') (bovine viral diarrhoea [BVD], infectious bovine rhinotracheitis [IBR], paratuberculosis) and 4 diseases/conditions generally without a biosecurity risk ('non-biosecure diseases/conditions') (fertility, udder health/milk quality, lameness, calf health). Beef farmers also prioritised parasitic conditions and weanling pneumonia. The adverse impact of biosecure diseases is currently considered relatively minor by experts, but would increase substantially in time. There are already substantial costs to farms and agribusiness from non-biosecure diseases/conditions. Experts preferred an equal allocation of resources between these biosecure and non-biosecure diseases/conditions, with emphasis on adopting/adapting international models, education and awareness-raising. The results from this study provide robust insights about non-regulatory animal health priorities in Ireland, as perceived by experts and farmers, using methodologies that are both transparent and inclusive. They have already been extremely influential in shaping national policy, as a foundation for interdisciplinary (and multi-agency) cooperation, as a contribution to efforts to encourage stakeholder responsibility-taking, and to ongoing development of postgraduate and undergraduate veterinary education in Ireland. © 2010.

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