UCD unveil plans for new Lyons centre

UCD launched a new Dairy Research and Teaching Unit at the Lyons Estate. At the launch were Dr Karina Pierce of UCD and Dr John Daly, research and innovation manager, Dairymaster
UCD launched a new Dairy Research and Teaching Unit at the Lyons Estate. At the launch were Dr Karina Pierce of UCD and Dr John Daly, research and innovation manager, Dairymaster

UCD is constructing a new Dairy Research and Education Facility at Lyons Research Farm to support research programmes in dairy production including genetics, nutrition and herd health management. Dr Karina Pierce of UCD talked to the Farming Independent on the role of the new centre and how it will benefit dairy farmers

1 What is the purpose of the new centre at Lyons?

This new facility will serve a number of needs for UCD, the partners involved and the wider dairy industry.

UCD has the only veterinary programme and the largest Level 8 Agricultural Science programme in the country. There is also a large cohort of postgraduate students based at Lyons Farm and this facility will be used extensively by all of these groups.

New courses are coming on stream all the time too, such as the BAgrSc in Dairy Business that I co-ordinate myself and the Graduate Certificate in Dairy Herd Health coordinated by Dr Finbar Mulligan.

Results from the CAO in the last week show that demand for agricultural courses continues to increase so it is an opportune time to build such a facility.

Food Harvest 2020 identifies a skilled workforce as one of key factors necessary to achieve the target of a 50pc increase in output from the dairy sector.

The new facility will allow us to increase cow numbers from 100 to 200 and, as a result, increase the volume of research conducted on the farm.

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The research outputs from the new facility will be made available through publications, a dedicated website and through Open Days on the farm.

There are six companies (Dairymaster, Devenish Nutrition, Glanbia, Irish Holstein Friesian Association, Munster Cattle Breeding and Progressive Genetics) involved in the project that are all gearing up for the expansion of the dairy sector in Ireland and internationally, many of them exporting companies.

The facility at Lyons will serve as an international showcase for the best in Irish dairy technology and the research programme planned reflects their immediate research needs.

2 What facilities will UCD have at the new centre?

The development will have accommodation for 200 cows. There will be a 40-unit Dairymaster rotary parlour and top class animal handling facilities to facilitate the busy research and teaching programmes on the farm.

There will also be a meeting room overlooking the parlour and a walkway to allow visitors view the facilities without getting dirty.

3 What sort of research will be undertaken at the centre?

There are a large number of researchers currently undertaking research at the farm in wide ranging areas from nutrition to reproduction to animal health.

The research is primarily funded by the Department of Agriculture, Science Foundation Ireland or European funding and there is also significant collaboration with private companies.

The increased cow numbers as a result of this initiative will allow more systems type research to be carried out on the farm.

The research will initially focus on milk production systems post quota, investigating the use of supplementation (silage and concentrates) in a grass-based system to increase output and manipulate milk quality.

The Lyons herd is also in liquid milk so research into the economics of liquid milk production will also be conducted in the early stages of the project.

4 Irish dairy research has been built around maximising grass - how will the Lyons research fit in with this objective?

The use of grass in the diet of cows at Lyons has increased substantially in recent years through the hard work of the farm staff and Dr Bridget Lynch, lecturer in Grass and Forage at UCD. Our plan is to continue to improve grassland management on the farm and optimise its inclusion in the diet of our cows.

However, cows in Lyons are currently producing approximately 7,500 litres and around 575kg of milk solids, and as we increase production and milk solids from the cows (up to approximately 8,000 litres), supplementation will be a key component of the system.

In a no quota system, supplementation may be a cost- effective way to increase output from the farm, obviously depending on concentrate price and milk price.

I think this is relevant for many farmers across the country as they consider their options post 2015.

5 How will the research be of benefit to Irish farmers?

There is a lot of talk about expansion at the minute and farmers in many cases are looking at buying land and cows to increase scale.

Getting more from individual cows, while recognising that fertility is a key driver of production, is another way of increasing output and research at Lyons will address this area as a priority.

We have seen a lot of interest from farmers in what we are planning in the last couple of years as they weigh up their options.

Farmers in liquid milk are under pressure and Lyons is going to continue to produce liquid milk, investigating the most cost-effective ways and efficient production methods.

As outlined earlier, the research outputs from the new facility will be made available through publications, a dedicated website and Open Days on the farm.

6 Do you think more dairy research is needed to reflect the diversity of systems Irish farmers employ?

There is excellent research currently ongoing into maximising milk from grass. However, we know that there is a large diversity in how farmers produce milk and this is likely to increase post quota.

The choice of system employed by farmers depends on many things including their goals, attitude, skills, available resources, and environmental and regulatory considerations.

The removal of quota will change the goal posts for farmers and production, and financial benchmarks are required that result in high performance in each system.

The research and production systems employed at Lyons aims to complement, rather than duplicate current research programmes.

7 What cow type will UCD be using for the upcoming research?

There has been a Holstein Friesian herd in Lyons for many years and we plan to stay with this breed for the future.

We will maintain a strong focus on EBI and concentrate on bulls with high values for both production and fertility. We are looking for a cow with a high EBI but with a higher production sub-index, while still having a very good fertility sub-index.

We want this cow producing 8,000 litres and 600kg plus of milk solids and we will be asking questions of this cow in terms of fertility, breeding, nutritional requirements, milk quality and cow health in a grass-based system.

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