Dr Peter Doyle and Dr Colin Byrne have been appointed to the Teagasc beef research team at Teagasc, Grange, Co Meath.

They will be involved in the grassland and beef system research programmes which will start in 2022.

A key aim of these positions will be to develop technologies and management practices to address the environmental challenges facing the sector, particularly in relation to greenhouse gas emissions.

COP26

The environmental challenges facing the agri-food sector have been highlighted recently with the COP26 summit in Glasgow and the discussions around the Government’s climate action plan.

The implications of these discussions on the Irish beef sector are not clear. However, it will mean a greater focus on the environmental footprint of beef cattle production.

Sustainable grazing systems

Peter Doyle recently completed a PhD at Teagasc Grange and UCD in beef grazing studies and has now commenced a grassland research post which will focus on sustainable grazing systems.

Reducing the use of imported nitrogen and incorporating legumes such as clover in beef grazing systems has been identified as a potential opportunity to reduce costs and the environmental impact of beef systems.

Peter’s research will explore these opportunities both in experimental studies at Grange and at farm level, where issues such as establishment, persistence and optimal utilisation will be investigated.

Doyle said: “We have the capacity in this country to grow high yields of grass inexpensively and the challenge now is to continue to do this with lower levels of nitrogen, while supporting high animal liveweight performance.

"This is now more important than ever, considering the increasing price of inputs and the environmental challenges facing the beef industry.”

Driving suckler performance

Colin Byrne has a PhD from Teagasc Grange and UCD and has postdoctoral experience at UCD, University of Limerick and Murdoch University, Australia.

He will lead a new research programme which will look at the potential to further drive productivity of suckler beef systems by increasing output per cow and reduce environmental impacts, with the initial focus on enteric methane emissions.

Animal performance, particularly with respect to suckler cow fertility and milk yield and progeny liveweight and carcass performance, remains a key driver of efficient and profitable beef farm systems.

He said: “Our suckler beef cow systems are already among the most carbon efficient in the world.

"Implementing practices such as reducing age at first calving, increasing the number of calves weaned per cow and increasing the calves’ weaning weight will further reduce the beef industry’s carbon footprint, while also ensuring the best possible economic return for the farmer."

Dr Byrne said that the research on suckler herds at Teagasc Grange plays an important role in improving our understanding of these traits and the interactions between genetics and management in grass-based suckler beef systems.