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Dairy calf to beef best practice 

 Alan Dilion 

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. 

Contact: alan.dillon@teagasc.ie
Other contributors: Sean Cummins.
Funding: MSD; Volac; Drummonds; Corteva; Munster Bovine; Liffey Mills.
Impact pathway: Capacity building. 

Communicating dairy cow welfare

Áine Regan

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.  

Contact: aine.regan@teagasc.ie
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. 

Changing behaviours: antibiotic use on farms

Alison Burrell (Animal Health Ireland) and Áine Regan

New veterinary medicines regulations are changing how antibiotics can be used on farms. Farmers and vets can be supported to change their animal health management behaviours by combining these top-down regulatory interventions with bottom-up interventions targeting individual knowledge, attitudes and social behaviours.

To support this, the AMU project developed seven behaviour change interventions grounded in behavioural science. Empirical work with over 550 farmers and vets informed an effective and targeted intervention design. The interventions included:

  • Reframing how we talk about antibiotics
  • OneHealth – a cross-border awareness campaign
  • Specialised communications training for veterinary and advisory professionals
  • User-friendly on-farm prompts
  • Peer-to-peer farmer social support and modelling
  • Supporting farmers to monitor antibiotic use
  • Vet champions for good antibiotic stewardship

    Policy-makers and practitioners are provided with the building blocks to implement and evaluate these interventions. Impact is already being achieved through pilot projects trialling a specialised communications training programme for vets and farm advisors, delivered by psychologists from Animal Health Ireland and Teagasc. 

Contact: aine.regan@teagasc.ie
Other contributors: Moira Dean, Tony Benson and Claire McKernan (Queen’s University Belfast), Conor McAloon and Hannah Martin (University College Dublin) and Edgar Garcia Manzanilla.
Funding: safefood.
Impact pathway: Capacity building.

Farm safety and farmer health seminar series

David Meredith, John McNamara and Mohammad Mohammadrezaei

Farm safety and farmer health are fundamental elements underpinning the social sustainability of farming. Improving safety and farmer health is challenging as it requires farmers to adopt new practices and behaviours.

Supporting farmers to make these changes requires action by a range of organisations and institutions, including policy, regulators, advisors, farming organisations, farmers, farm household members and researchers. In 2021, Teagasc established and delivered a farm safety and farmer health Knowledge Exchange Seminar Series (KESS) to bring these groups together. The KESS – which continues to this day – encourages discussion, fosters improved understanding and seeks to realise opportunities for greater knowledge exchange and collaboration.

To date, five seminars have been held, drawing on research based in Ireland and internationally. The KESS was launched by Martin Heydon, TD, the Minister of State with responsibility for Farm Safety. The seminars have attracted over 250 participants, including those with responsibility for social sustainability within EU agri-policy. The learnings from the KESS were critical in building the SafeHabitus consortium that successfully bid for €5,000,000 in Horizon Europe funding.    

Contact: david.meredith@teagasc.ie  
Other contributors: University College Dublin, National University of Ireland, Galway, South East Technological University, Bassett Research Institute – New York and the Catholic University of Louvain.
Funding: Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine BeSAFE project.
Impact pathway: Capacity building.

Market opportunities for Irish beef and sheep

Maeve Henchion

Approximately half of cattle and sheep carcasses are not meat. This proportion – termed the ‘fifth quarter’ by industry – includes edible and inedible components, and is a potentially valuable feedstock from which high value constituents can be extracted. Significant research has already been undertaken internationally to identify such constituents and the technologies and processes that enable their extraction.

As part of the Meat Technology Ireland programme, key findings from this research have been synthesised and organised into a format that can be used to benefit the Irish meat industry. Using a systematic literature review, a database identifying such opportunities – including centres of excellence and key contacts globally – has been developed.

This is now being used by Irish industry and others within the innovation system to drive strategic new market opportunities that simultaneously address sustainability challenges in the industry, in keeping with the sustainable, circular bioeconomy. It also provides direction for the future development of the sector. An Invention Disclosure Form (IDF) has been produced, resulting in the database being freely available to MTI-participating companies, with a peer reviewed publication outlining the related value chains accepted for publication.  

Contact: maeve.henchion@teagasc.ie  
Other contributors: Ankush Shirsath.
Funding: Enterprise Ireland; Irish meat companies.
Impact pathway: Technology development and adoption; Capacity building.