I have attended the Teagasc Moorepark open day every two years for a long time.
It never fails to stimulate minds and ignite all kinds of conversations among farmers and agri specialists.
It is an opportunity to hear from the established researchers; the men and women we’ve come to know and respect over the years.
Some visitors agree with the new findings and others don’t.
After all, it is these young scientists that will define our futures
Whichever group you fall into doesn’t matter because, at the end of the day, the science doesn’t lie or take account of the political views of some onlookers. Having absorbed the main boards, it is a great opportunity to hear what the next generation of researchers are working on.
After all, it is these young scientists that will define our futures and assist us with new findings and technology. Climate change and all it variables will impact our farming practices. There is no doubt that finding new ways to lessen the impact of livestock farming on the climate by reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a matter of urgency.
We continue to look to science and Teagasc Moorepark for the answers
The reality is that advice has been turned on its head for dairy farmers from expansion to sustainability. The same applies at research level. We continue to look to science and Teagasc Moorepark for the answers.
Further to my observations of last week, I was particularly interested in hearing about Donagh Hennessy’s work as he undertakes his PhD. Donagh is my husband Tim’s nephew and he has tried to educate me on a few occasions about his research topic.
At this year’s open day, having given his presentation, he asked: “Well Katherine, do you understand my topic better now?” Donagh loves to debate and delve deeply into whatever subject is up for discussion. He is the son of Laoise and Sean Hennessey and has grown up with his siblings on their progressive dairy farm. He went to University College Dublin to study food and agribusiness management. He has travelled widely. He furthered his studies in agricultural economics and is studying to earn a PhD researched between Moorepark and Animal Production Systems at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. His paper is shared with Laurence Shalloo of Moorepark and Marijke Schop and Imke de Boer of Wageningen.
Feed-food competition occurs when land that is suitable for food production such as cereals and vegetables is instead used for the feeding of cows, cattle, sheep and other ruminants
The topic is Feed-food competition in Ireland’s pasture-based systems which means Donagh is researching land use efficiency. Feed-food competition occurs when land that is suitable for food production such as cereals and vegetables is instead used for the feeding of cows, cattle, sheep and other ruminants by grazing or harvesting food for them. If the feeding of the animals is inefficient then it is displacing land that could be used to produce more food for humans.
This study quantifies the total amount of edible protein produced in the form of meat and milk per livestock system and compares it with the edible protein produced instead by growing crops directly for food for people.
Dairying from pasture-based systems produces more protein than other systems
The study found that “the ruminant sector produces more edible protein than the potential alternative crop”. It also found that feed-food competition is occurring in our livestock systems where there is a high use of concentrates to feed animals and poor grass utilisation, meaning that more arable area than necessary is being used.
Dairying from pasture-based systems produces more protein than other systems. If you removed all the cows from Ireland, you could only generate 47% of all the protein they produce from the same land.
Wouldn’t life be very boring if we had no juicy steaks with pepper sauce, succulent roast chicken, roast lamb with rosemary or honey-glazed ham? We have to continue to feed the world efficiently by implement sustainable models of livestock farming.
Moving through the information boards, we came upon another young researcher from our parish of Inniscarra.
Caitlin Looney and Michael Egan had produced a paper on Building herbage masses in autumn – the effect on sward quality and production. Caitlin had sound advice and is also a great camogie player for Inniscarra. Paddocks with high covers over 2,000kg DM/ha on 15 October should be grazed before 7 November.
Look out for the young researchers and engage with them
Paddocks with medium covers (1,500kg DM/ha) can be grazed anytime in the final rotation. Paddocks with low covers (500kg DM/ha) can be carried forward to spring.
Caitlin fielded the questions admirably. Look out for the young researchers and engage with them. They will provide new and innovative solutions for us to implement down on our farms and challenge us to understand in the process.