Tuesday 27 September 2016

Outbreak of maggots has added to our workload

Tommy Boland

Published 07/09/2016 | 02:30

Grass growth was helped by last week's rainfall
Grass growth was helped by last week's rainfall

Grass growth is now running at 40kg drymatter (DM) per ha per day on the sheep grazing platform at Lyons, which was helped by last week's rainfall.

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Demand continues to decline as lambs are slaughtered but our slaughter pattern is running behind that achieved in 2015. This does not seem to be unique to us.

To add to the workload we had an outbreak of maggots last week, even where animals were still within the periods of cover claimed by the products used to control fly strike - all of which is rather disappointing.

As you read this, Connie Grace is in Norway, presenting the results of her SMARTGRASS research at the European Grasslands Federation Conference.

This is an integral part of the research activities of any PhD student.

For UCD, it is also crucial to communicate the outcomes of our research.

Moreover, it gives an opportunity to build links with researchers from other countries with similar interests to maximise the impact of the investment in research.

It was refreshing to hear the EU's Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan state last week that agricultural research in Europe was underfunded and this situation must be remedied into the future.

Indeed, increasing demand for agricultural products and the necessity to produce these products in a sustainable fashion is a key message coming from a number of major conferences held this year.

The unheralded growth in global population means the planet will need to produce more food in the next 50 years than in all of human history to date.

This demand is further pressurised by the increasing environmental demands which must be met, not least the reductions required in greenhouse gas emissions.

A constant commentary is that ruminant products, especially beef and sheepmeat to a slightly lesser extent, must be reduced in terms of production and consumption. But this argument is overly simplistic in my opinion.

If we take a very parochial view for the moment, Ireland has the most carbon-efficient milk production in the EU and one of the most efficient beef production systems.

This does not mean there is no room for improvement, and one of the objectives of our SMARTGRASS project is to do just that.

Furthermore, when we look at the yield of human edible protein from various production systems, ruminant production, and indeed sheep meat production, performs very well.

Ruminants

This analysis means that by producing ruminant products we increase the total amount of protein available to the world's growing population.

Prof Ian Gives from University of Reading presented some extremely worrying statistics at the EAAP 2016 conference in Belfast last week in relation to the role of milk and red meat in meeting the micro-nutrient requirements of the human population.

They show that milk consumption, and as a direct corollary calcium consumption, in young females is declining during the key bone development phase.

The net result of this is a reduced bone strength and increased risk of bone breakage in alter life.

Iodine intake is dropping in pregnant women also and this is associated with reduced cognitive function of the children of these reduced iodine intake women at five years of age.

This again is linked to reduced milk intake as milk is a key source of both iodine and calcium.

If the situation is not bad enough, the reduced milk intake is often compensated for by high sugar drinks, which can increase the risk of type-2 diabetes.

A very interesting aspect of the conference was the farmer participation aspect.

While research takes place along a continuum with some being very close to market, and some being more experimental, the end use of the research must always be in mind.

To this end Huw Davies from Wales spoke about the use of electronic ID and data recording in his flock of 600 ewes.

With EID very much in the spotlight in many sheep producing regions of the world, it was interesting to hear the potential benefits at farm level of engagement with the technology.

However, he stressed that all links in the food supply chain from producer, to processor, to retailer need to have buy-in to gain the maximum benefit.

Tommy Boland lectures in sheep production at Lyons Research Farm, UCD. email: tommy.boland@ucd.ie Twitter: @Pallastb

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