Research impact highlights - Dairy
Dairy calf to beef best practice
Farm profitability increased by an average of €550 following the implementation of Teagasc’s advisory measures.
The Teagasc Green Acres Dairy Calf to Beef Programme Phase 2 ran from 2019 to 2022 with 12 demonstration farms. The target of the programme was to promote best practice in dairy calf to beef rearing systems, with a target of achieving a net profit of €500 per hectare excluding all subsidies. A team of specialised advisors from Teagasc provided an intensive advisory service to the farmers, which focused on improving the health of calves through improvements in ventilation, implementing a calf vaccination programme and sourcing calves directly from farms to reduce stress on calves at purchase. There was a specific focus on grassland management and silage quality to reduce cost of production, as well as targeting an earlier age of slaughter. As a result of these measures, farm profitability improved from an average of €100 per hectare net profit (excluding subsidies) in 2019 to an average €650 per hectare net profit in 2021. This programme has now been expanded under the DairyBeef 500 campaign.
Other contributors: Sean Cummins.
Funding: MSD; Volac; Drummonds; Corteva; Munster Bovine; Liffey Mills.
Impact pathway: Capacity building.
Taking the chlorine out of cleaning on dairy farms
David Gleeson, Bernadette O Brien, Tom Beresford and Lorna Twomey
Using chlorine-free protocols resulted in a 7% reduction in detected chlorate residues
in bulk tank milk.
When detergents containing chlorine are used for cleaning milking equipment, they can leave residues such as trichloromethane (TCM) and chlorates in milk and dairy products. These residues are potentially harmful to human health if present in significant levels in dairy products. Cleaning protocols for milking equipment were developed at Teagasc Moorepark to address the issue of chlorine-related residues in bulk tank milk. The chlorine-free protocols incorporate new detergents developed in conjunction with chemical manufacturers, with a focus on water temperature and an increase in the use of acid-based products. The protocols were initially evaluated on Teagasc research farms and then on commercial dairy farms. Teagasc communicated the details of these protocols to farmers using a dedicated web link and a series of webinars undertaken in conjunction with milk quality advisors and the Teagasc advisory services. Since January 2021, it has been recommended practice that all dairy farmers adopt chlorine-free protocols for milking equipment cleaning.
Other contributors: Detergent chemical manufacturers, dairy farmers and milk processors.
Funding: Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Teagasc.
Impact pathway: Technology development and adoption.
Communicating dairy cow welfare
The welfare of dairy cows has captured societal attention, resulting in changed consumer behaviour. A Teagasc survey of almost 1,000 people found that while the Irish public have generally favourable views about animal welfare in the Irish dairy sector, they also feel uninformed about farming practices and welfare-friendly foods. Only 20% of survey participants felt there is currently enough information available about animal welfare-friendly food. Using this research as a base, and through a co-design process with relevant field experts, an animated whiteboard video was produced for the general public. The video uses engaging and public-friendly facts, language and imagery to communicate what good welfare practices look like on Irish dairy farms. Within six months of launching, the video received nearly 27,000 views on social media. The video empowers the citizen-consumer to become better informed about farm animal welfare and what that entails in terms of farming practices. It is an evidence-based resource that targets identified knowledge gaps and information vacuums, helping to reduce the growing consumer disconnect related to food production.
Other contributors: Alison Hanlon (University College Dublin), Doris Laepple (National University of Ireland, Galway) and Moira Dean, Claire McKernan and Tony Benson (Queen’s University Belfast).
Funding: Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Impact pathway: Capacity building.