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Knowledge of population structure and breed composition of a population can be advantageous for a number of reasons; these include designing optimal (cross)breeding strategies in order to maximise non-additive genetic effects, maintaining flockbook integrity by authenticating animals being registered and as a quality control measure in the genotyping process. The objectives of the present study were to 1) describe the population structure of 24 sheep breeds, 2) quantify the breed composition of both flockbook-recorded and crossbred animals using single nucleotide polymorphism BLUP (SNP-BLUP), and 3) quantify the accuracy of breed composition prediction from low-density genotype panels containing between 2000 and 6000 SNPs. In total, 9334 autosomal SNPs on 11 144 flockbook-recorded animals and 1172 crossbred animals were used. The population structure of all breeds was characterised by principal component analysis (PCA) as well as the pairwise breed fixation index (Fst). The total number of animals, all of which were purebred, included in the calibration population for SNP-BLUP was 2579 with the number of animals per breed ranging from 9 to 500. The remaining 9559 flockbook-recorded animals, composite breeds and crossbred animals represented the test population; three breeds were excluded from breed composition prediction. The breed composition predicted using SNP-BLUP with 9334 SNPs was considered the gold standard prediction. The pairwise breed Fst ranged from 0.040 (between the Irish Blackface and Scottish Blackface) to 0.282 (between the Border Leicester and Suffolk). Principal component analysis revealed that the Suffolk from Ireland and the Suffolk from New Zealand formed distinct, non-overlapping clusters. In contrast, the Texel from Ireland and that from New Zealand formed integrated, overlapping clusters. Composite animals such as the Belclare clustered close to its founder breeds (i.e., Finn, Galway, Lleyn and Texel). When all 9334 SNPs were used to predict breed composition, an animal that had a majority breed proportion predicted to be ≥0.90 was defined as purebred for the present study. As the panel density decreased, the predicted breed proportion threshold, used to identify animals as purebred, also decreased (≥0.85 with 6000 SNPs to ≥0.60 with 2000 SNPs). In all, results from the study suggest that breed composition for purebred and crossbred animals can be determined with SNP-BLUP using ≥5000 SNPs.
We sought to address the prior limitations of symptom checker accuracy by analysing the diagnostic and triage feasibility of online symptom checkers using a consecutive series of real-life emergency department (ED) patient encounters, and addressing a complex patient population – those with hepatitis C or HIV. We aimed to study the diagnostic and triage accuracy of these symptom checkers in relation to an emergency room physician-determined diagnosis. An ED retrospective analysis was performed on 8363 consecutive adult patients. Eligible patients included: 90 HIV, 67 hepatitis C, 11 both HIV and hepatitis C. Five online symptom checkers were utilised for diagnosis (Mayo Clinic, WebMD, Symptomate, Symcat, Isabel), three with triage capabilities. Symptom checker output was compared with ED physician-determined diagnosis data in regards to diagnostic accuracy and differential diagnosis listing, along with triage advice. All symptom checkers, whether for combined HIV and hepatitis C, HIV alone or hepatitis C alone had poor diagnostic accuracy in regards to Top1 (<20%), Top3 (<35%), Top10 (<40%), Listed at All (<45%). Significant variations existed for each individual symptom checker, as some appeared more accurate for listing the diagnosis in the top of the differential, vs. others more apt to list the diagnosis at all. In regards to ED triage data, a significantly higher percentage of hepatitis C patients (59.7%; 40/67) were found to have an initial diagnosis with emergent criteria than HIV patients (35.6%; 32/90). Symptom checker diagnostic capabilities are quite inferior to physician diagnostic capabilities. Complex patients such as those with HIV or hepatitis C may carry a more specific differential diagnosis, warranting symptom checkers to have diagnostic algorithms accounting for such complexity. Symptom checkers carry the potential for real-time epidemiologic monitoring of patient symptoms, as symptom entries and subsequent symptom checker diagnosis could allow health officials a means to track illnesses in specific patient populations and geographic regions. In order to do this, accurate and reliable symptom checkers are warranted.
To simulate effects of different scenarios of folic acid fortification of food on dietary folate equivalents (DFE) intake in an ethnically diverse sample of pregnant women.
A forty-four-item FFQ was used to evaluate dietary intake of the population. DFE intakes were estimated for different scenarios of food fortification with folic acid: (i) voluntary fortification; (ii) increased voluntary fortification; (iii) simulated bread mandatory fortification; and (iv) simulated grains-and-rice mandatory fortification.
Ethnically and socio-economically diverse cohort of pregnant women in New Zealand.
Pregnant women (n 5664) whose children were born in 2009–2010.
Participants identified their ethnicity as European (56·0 %), Asian (14·2 %), Māori (13·2 %), Pacific (12·8 %) or Others (3·8 %). Bread, breakfast cereals and yeast spread were main food sources of DFE in the two voluntary fortification scenarios. However, for Asian women, green leafy vegetables, bread and breakfast cereals were main contributors of DFE in these scenarios. In descending order, proportions of different ethnic groups in the lowest tertile of DFE intake for the four fortification scenarios were: Asian (39–60 %), Others (41–44 %), European (31–37 %), Pacific (23–26 %) and Māori (23–27 %). In comparisons within each ethnic group across scenarios of food fortification with folic acid, differences were observed only with DFE intake higher in the simulated grains-and-rice mandatory fortification v. other scenarios.
If grain and rice fortification with folic acid was mandatory in New Zealand, DFE intakes would be more evenly distributed among pregnant women of different ethnicities, potentially reducing ethnic group differences in risk of lower folate intakes.
In order to control and optimize chicken quality products, it is necessary to improve the description of the responses to dietary amino acid (AA) concentration in terms of carcass composition and meat quality, especially during the finishing period. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of Lysine (Lys, i.e. a limiting AA used as reference in AA nutrition) and AA other than Lys (AA effect). In total, 12 experimental diets were formulated with four levels of digestible Lys content (7, 8.5, 10 and 11.5 g/kg) combined with either a low (AA−), adequate control (AAc) and high (AA+) amount of other essential AA (EAA) expressed as a proportion of Lys. They were distributed to male Ross PM3 from 3 to 5 weeks of age. No significant AA×Lys interaction was found for growth performance or carcass composition. Body weight and feed conversion ratio were significantly improved by addition of Lys but were impaired in broilers receiving the AA− diets, whereas breast meat yield and abdominal fat were only affected by Lys. No additional benefit was found when the relative amount of other EAA was increased. There was a significant AA×Lys interaction on most of the meat quality traits, including ultimate pH, color and drip loss, with a significant effect of both AA and Lys. For example, AA− combined with reduced Lys level favored the production of meat with high ultimate pH (>6.0), dark color and low drip loss whereas more acid, light and exudative meat (<5.85) was produced with AA+ combined with a low Lys level. In conclusion, growth performance, carcass composition and meat quality are affected by the levels of dietary Lys and AA in finishing broilers. In addition, interactive responses to Lys and AA are found on meat quality traits, leading to great variations in breast pHu, color and drip loss according AA balance or imbalance.
To evaluate the sociodemographic and lifestyle factors associated with insufficient and excessive use of folic acid supplements (FAS) among pregnant women.
A pregnancy cohort to which multinomial logistic regression models were applied to identify factors associated with duration and dose of FAS use.
The Growing Up in New Zealand child study, which enrolled pregnant women whose children were born in 2009–2010.
Pregnant women (n 6822) enrolled into a nationally generalizable cohort.
Ninety-two per cent of pregnant women were not taking FAS according to the national recommendation (4 weeks before until 12 weeks after conception), with 69 % taking insufficient FAS and 57 % extending FAS use past 13 weeks’ gestation. The factors associated with extended use differed from those associated with insufficient use. Consistent with published literature, the relative risks of insufficient use were increased for younger women, those with less education, of non-European ethnicities, unemployed, who smoked cigarettes, whose pregnancy was unplanned or who had older children, or were living in more deprived households. In contrast, the relative risks of extended use were increased for women of higher socio-economic status or for whom this was their first pregnancy and decreased for women of Pacific v. European ethnicity.
In New Zealand, current use of FAS during pregnancy potentially exposes pregnant women and their unborn children to too little or too much folic acid. Further policy development is necessary to reduce current socio-economic inequities in the use of FAS.
Early detection of karyotype abnormalities, including aneuploidy, could aid producers in identifying animals which, for example, would not be suitable candidate parents. Genome-wide genetic marker data in the form of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are now being routinely generated on animals. The objective of the present study was to describe the statistics that could be generated from the allele intensity values from such SNP data to diagnose karyotype abnormalities; of particular interest was whether detection of aneuploidy was possible with both commonly used genotyping platforms in agricultural species, namely the Applied BiosystemsTM AxiomTM and the Illumina platform. The hypothesis was tested using a case study of a set of dizygotic X-chromosome monosomy 53,X sheep twins. Genome-wide SNP data were available from the Illumina platform (11 082 autosomal and 191 X-chromosome SNPs) on 1848 male and 8954 female sheep and available from the AxiomTM platform (11 128 autosomal and 68 X-chromosome SNPs) on 383 female sheep. Genotype allele intensity values, either as their original raw values or transformed to logarithm intensity ratio (LRR), were used to accurately diagnose two dizygotic (i.e. fraternal) twin 53,X sheep, both of which received their single X chromosome from their sire. This is the first reported case of 53,X dizygotic twins in any species. Relative to the X-chromosome SNP genotype mean allele intensity values of normal females, the mean allele intensity value of SNP genotypes on the X chromosome of the two females monosomic for the X chromosome was 7.45 to 12.4 standard deviations less, and were easily detectable using either the AxiomTM or Illumina genotype platform; the next lowest mean allele intensity value of a female was 4.71 or 3.3 standard deviations less than the population mean depending on the platform used. Both 53,X females could also be detected based on the genotype LRR although this was more easily detectable when comparing the mean LRR of the X chromosome of each female to the mean LRR of their respective autosomes. On autopsy, the ovaries of the two sheep were small for their age and evidence of prior ovulation was not appreciated. In both sheep, the density of primordial follicles in the ovarian cortex was lower than normally found in ovine ovaries and primary follicle development was not observed. Mammary gland development was very limited. Results substantiate previous studies in other species that aneuploidy can be readily detected using SNP genotype allele intensity values generally already available, and the approach proposed in the present study was agnostic to genotype platform.
The ability to properly assess and accurately phenotype true differences in feed efficiency among dairy cows is key to the development of breeding programs for improving feed efficiency. The variability among individuals in feed efficiency is commonly characterised by the residual intake approach. Residual feed intake is represented by the residuals of a linear regression of intake on the corresponding quantities of the biological functions that consume (or release) energy. However, the residuals include both, model fitting and measurement errors as well as any variability in cow efficiency. The objective of this study was to isolate the individual animal variability in feed efficiency from the residual component. Two separate models were fitted, in one the standard residual energy intake (REI) was calculated as the residual of a multiple linear regression of lactation average net energy intake (NEI) on lactation average milk energy output, average metabolic BW, as well as lactation loss and gain of body condition score. In the other, a linear mixed model was used to simultaneously fit fixed linear regressions and random cow levels on the biological traits and intercept using fortnight repeated measures for the variables. This method split the predicted NEI in two parts: one quantifying the population mean intercept and coefficients, and one quantifying cow-specific deviations in the intercept and coefficients. The cow-specific part of predicted NEI was assumed to isolate true differences in feed efficiency among cows. NEI and associated energy expenditure phenotypes were available for the first 17 fortnights of lactation from 119 Holstein cows; all fed a constant energy-rich diet. Mixed models fitting cow-specific intercept and coefficients to different combinations of the aforementioned energy expenditure traits, calculated on a fortnightly basis, were compared. The variance of REI estimated with the lactation average model represented only 8% of the variance of measured NEI. Among all compared mixed models, the variance of the cow-specific part of predicted NEI represented between 53% and 59% of the variance of REI estimated from the lactation average model or between 4% and 5% of the variance of measured NEI. The remaining 41% to 47% of the variance of REI estimated with the lactation average model may therefore reflect model fitting errors or measurement errors. In conclusion, the use of a mixed model framework with cow-specific random regressions seems to be a promising method to isolate the cow-specific component of REI in dairy cows.
Accurate genomic analyses are predicated on access to a large quantity of accurately genotyped and phenotyped animals. Because the cost of genotyping is often less than the cost of phenotyping, interest is increasing in generating genotypes for phenotyped animals. In some instances this may imply the requirement to genotype older animals with greater phenotypic information content. Biological material for these older informative animals may, however, no longer exist. The objective of the present study was to quantify the ability to impute 11 129 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotypes of non-genotyped animals (in this instance sires) from the genotypes of their progeny with or without including the genotypes of the progenys’ dams (i.e. mates of the sire to be imputed). The impact on the accuracy of genotype imputation by including more progeny (and their dams’) genotypes in the imputation reference population was also quantified. When genotypes of the dams were not available, genotypes of 41 sires with at least 15 genotyped progeny were used for the imputation; when genotypes of the dams were available, genotypes of 21 sires with at least 10 genotyped progeny were used for the imputation. Imputation was undertaken exploiting family and population level information. The mean and variability in the proportion of genotypes per individual that could not be imputed reduced as the number of progeny genotypes used per individual increased. Little improvement in the proportion of genotypes that could not be imputed was achieved once genotypes of seven progeny and their dams were used or genotypes of 11 progeny without their respective dam’s genotypes were used. Mean imputation accuracy per individual (depicted by both concordance rates and correlation between true and imputed) increased with increasing progeny group size. Moreover, the range in mean imputation accuracy per individual reduced as more progeny genotypes were used in the imputation. If the genotype of the mate of the sire was also used, high accuracy of imputation (mean genotype concordance rate per individual of 0.988), with little additional benefit thereafter, was achieved with seven genotyped progeny. In the absence of genotypes on the dam, similar imputation accuracy could not be achieved even using genotypes on up to 15 progeny. Results therefore suggest, at least for the SNP density used in the present study, that it is possible to accurately impute the genotypes of a non-genotyped parent from the genotypes of its progeny and there is a benefit of also including the genotype of the sire’s mate (i.e. dam of the progeny).
A ‘chessboard’ field experiment set up to investigate how the yield response to nitrogen (N) fertiliser varied spatially within a field in the UK indicated that the optimum N rate varied substantially by up to 100 kg N/ha within the three hectare experimental area. Variation in N optima was negatively related to the soil N supply. However, soil N supply, yield potential and apparent fertiliser recovery rate were inter-related which meant that the influence of each element on N optima was complex. Spectral reflectance indices related well to crop N uptake and could be used to help estimate soil N supply.
As the environments in which livestock are reared become more variable, animal robustness becomes an increasingly valuable attribute. Consequently, there is increasing focus on managing and breeding for it. However, robustness is a difficult phenotype to properly characterise because it is a complex trait composed of multiple components, including dynamic elements such as the rates of response to, and recovery from, environmental perturbations. In this review, the following definition of robustness is used: the ability, in the face of environmental constraints, to carry on doing the various things that the animal needs to do to favour its future ability to reproduce. The different elements of this definition are discussed to provide a clearer understanding of the components of robustness. The implications for quantifying robustness are that there is no single measure of robustness but rather that it is the combination of multiple and interacting component mechanisms whose relative value is context dependent. This context encompasses both the prevailing environment and the prevailing selection pressure. One key issue for measuring robustness is to be clear on the use to which the robustness measurements will employed. If the purpose is to identify biomarkers that may be useful for molecular phenotyping or genotyping, the measurements should focus on the physiological mechanisms underlying robustness. However, if the purpose of measuring robustness is to quantify the extent to which animals can adapt to limiting conditions then the measurements should focus on the life functions, the trade-offs between them and the animal’s capacity to increase resource acquisition. The time-related aspect of robustness also has important implications. Single time-point measurements are of limited value because they do not permit measurement of responses to (and recovery from) environmental perturbations. The exception being single measurements of the accumulated consequence of a good (or bad) adaptive capacity, such as productive longevity and lifetime efficiency. In contrast, repeated measurements over time have a high potential for quantification of the animal’s ability to cope with environmental challenges. Thus, we should be able to quantify differences in adaptive capacity from the data that are increasingly becoming available with the deployment of automated monitoring technology on farm. The challenge for future management and breeding will be how to combine various proxy measures to obtain reliable estimates of robustness components in large populations. A key aspect for achieving this is to define phenotypes from consideration of their biological properties and not just from available measures.
Taylor Glacier hosts an active englacial hydrologic system that feeds Blood Falls, a supraglacial outflow of iron-rich subglacial brine at the terminus, despite mean annual air temperatures of −17°C and limited surface melt. Taylor Glacier is an outlet glacier of the East Antarctic ice sheet that terminates in Lake Bonney, McMurdo Dry Valleys. To image and map the brine feeding Blood Falls, we used radio echo sounding to delineate a subhorizontal zone of englacial brine upstream from Blood Falls and elongated in the ice flow direction. We estimate volumetric brine content in excess of 13% within 2 m of the central axis of this zone, and likely much higher at its center. Brine content decreases, but remains detectable, up to 45 m away along some transects. Hence, we infer a network of subparallel basal crevasses allowing injection of pressurized subglacial brine into the ice. Subglacial brine is routed towards Blood Falls by hydraulic potential gradients associated with deeply incised supraglacial valleys. The brine remains liquid within the subglacial and englacial environments through latent heat of freezing coupled with elevated salt content. Our findings suggest that cold glaciers could support freshwater hydrologic systems through localized warming by latent heat alone.
To characterize the multiple dimensions and benefits of the Mediterranean diet as a sustainable diet, in order to revitalize this intangible food heritage at the country level; and to develop a multidimensional framework – the Med Diet 4.0 – in which four sustainability benefits of the Mediterranean diet are presented in parallel: major health and nutrition benefits, low environmental impacts and richness in biodiversity, high sociocultural food values, and positive local economic returns.
A narrative review was applied at the country level to highlight the multiple sustainable benefits of the Mediterranean diet into a single multidimensional framework: the Med Diet 4.0.
We included studies published in English in peer-reviewed journals that contained data on the characterization of sustainable diets and of the Mediterranean diet. The methodological framework approach was finalized through a series of meetings, workshops and conferences where the framework was presented, discussed and ultimately refined.
The Med Diet 4.0 provides a conceptual multidimensional framework to characterize the Mediterranean diet as a sustainable diet model, by applying principles of sustainability to the Mediterranean diet.
By providing a broader understanding of the many sustainable benefits of the Mediterranean diet, the Med Diet 4.0 can contribute to the revitalization of the Mediterranean diet by improving its current perception not only as a healthy diet but also a sustainable lifestyle model, with country-specific and culturally appropriate variations. It also takes into account the identity and diversity of food cultures and systems, expressed within the notion of the Mediterranean diet, across the Mediterranean region and in other parts of the world. Further multidisciplinary studies are needed for the assessment of the sustainability of the Mediterranean diet to include these new dimensions.
The objective of the present study was to quantify the extent of genetic variation in three health-related traits namely dagginess, lameness and mastitis, in an Irish sheep population. Each of the health traits investigated pose substantial welfare implications as well as considerable economic costs to producers. Data were also available on four body-related traits, namely body condition score (BCS), live weight, muscle depth and fat depth. Animals were categorised as lambs (<365 days old) or ewes (⩾365 days old) and were analysed both separately and combined. After edits, 39 315 records from 264 flocks between the years 2009 and 2015 inclusive were analysed. Variance components were estimated using animal linear mixed models. Fixed effects included contemporary group, represented as a three-way interaction between flock, date of inspection and animal type (i.e. lamb, yearling ewe (i.e. females ⩾365 days but <730 days old that have not yet had a recorded lambing) or ewe), animal breed proportion, coefficients of heterosis and recombination, animal gender (lambs only), animal parity (ewes only; lambs were assigned a separate ‘parity’) and the difference in age of the animal from the median of the respective parity/age group. An additive genetic effect and residual effect were both fitted as random terms with maternal genetic and non-genetic components also considered for traits of the lambs. The direct heritability of dagginess was similar across age groups (0.14 to 0.15), whereas the direct heritability of lameness ranged from 0.06 (ewes) to 0.12 (lambs). The direct heritability of mastitis was 0.04. For dagginess, 13% of the phenotypic variation was explained by dam litter, whereas the maternal heritability of dagginess was 0.05. The genetic correlation between ewe and lamb dagginess was 0.38; the correlation between ewe and lamb lameness was close to zero but was associated with a large standard error. Direct genetic correlations were evident between dagginess and BCS in ewes and between lameness and BCS in lambs. The present study has demonstrated that ample genetic variation exists for all three health traits investigated indicating that genetic improvement is indeed possible.
Responses to changes in dietary Lys and other essential amino acid (AA) concentrations were evaluated in 480 male and female broilers originating from two lines divergently selected for high (pHu+) or low (pHu−) ultimate pH (pHu) of breast muscle. The two genetic lines were fed with two grower isoenergetic diets differing in both true digestible Lys (control=10.2 g/kg and experimental=7.0 g/kg) and amounts of other essential AA calculated in relation to Lys, which were sufficient for the control diet or in excess for the experimental diet. There were six repetitions per treatment. Birds were weighed individually at days 0, 21, 28 and 43. Feed consumption was recorded per pen and feed conversion was calculated over the growing period. The physical activity and walking ability of broilers were recorded during the whole rearing period. Breast and leg yield, and abdominal fat percentage were measured at 43 days of age, as were pHu, color, drip and cooking loss, Warner–Bratzler shear force, and curing-cooking yield of the breast Pectoralis major and pHu of the thigh Sartorius muscle. Divergent selection greatly affected most breast meat quality traits without significantly changing growth rate or feed efficiency. When subjected to a variation in dietary intake of AA, birds from the two genotypes responded in a similar way in terms of animal’s growth, feed efficiency, body composition and meat quality traits. Although line and diet did not affect physical or feeding activities of the broilers, a significant effect of line-by-diet interaction was observed on gait score. Contrary to the pHu− birds, the walking ability of pHu+ birds was impaired when fed the control diet that favored growth and breast muscle development and limited storage of carbohydrate in muscle.
Information on the genetic diversity and population structure of cattle breeds is useful when deciding the most optimal, for example, crossbreeding strategies to improve phenotypic performance by exploiting heterosis. The present study investigated the genetic diversity and population structure of the most prominent dairy and beef breeds used in Ireland. Illumina high-density genotypes (777 962 single nucleotide polymorphisms; SNPs) were available on 4623 purebred bulls from nine breeds; Angus (n=430), Belgian Blue (n=298), Charolais (n=893), Hereford (n=327), Holstein-Friesian (n=1261), Jersey (n=75), Limousin (n=943), Montbéliarde (n=33) and Simmental (n=363). Principal component analysis revealed that Angus, Hereford, and Jersey formed non-overlapping clusters, representing distinct populations. In contrast, overlapping clusters suggested geographical proximity of origin and genetic similarity between Limousin, Simmental and Montbéliarde and to a lesser extent between Holstein, Friesian and Belgian Blue. The observed SNP heterozygosity averaged across all loci was 0.379. The Belgian Blue had the greatest mean observed heterozygosity (HO=0.389) among individuals within breed while the Holstein-Friesian and Jersey populations had the lowest mean heterozygosity (HO=0.370 and 0.376, respectively). The correlation between the genomic-based and pedigree-based inbreeding coefficients was weak (r=0.171; P<0.001). Mean genomic inbreeding estimates were greatest for Jersey (0.173) and least for Hereford (0.051). The pair-wise breed fixation index (Fst) ranged from 0.049 (Limousin and Charolais) to 0.165 (Hereford and Jersey). In conclusion, substantial genetic variation exists among breeds commercially used in Ireland. Thus custom-mating strategies would be successful in maximising the exploitation of heterosis in crossbreeding strategies.
Therapeutic relationships are a central component of community treatment for psychosis and thought to influence clinical and social outcomes, yet there is limited research regarding the potential influence of professional characteristics on positive therapeutic relationships in community care. It was hypothesised that professionals’ relating style and attitudes toward their work might be important, and thus this exploratory study modelled associations between these characteristics and therapeutic relationships developed in community psychosis treatment.
Dyads of professionals and young patients with psychosis rated their therapeutic relationships with each other. Professionals also completed measures of attachment style, therapeutic optimism, outcome expectancy, and job attitudes regarding working with psychosis.
Professionals’ anxious attachment predicted less positive professional therapeutic relationship ratings. In exploratory directed path analysis, data also supported indirect effects, whereby anxious professional attachment predicts less positive therapeutic relationships through reduced professional therapeutic optimism and less positive job attitudes.
Professional anxious attachment style is directly associated with the therapeutic relationship in psychosis, and indirectly associated through therapeutic optimism and job attitudes. Thus, intervening in professional characteristics could offer an opportunity to limit the impact of insecure attachment on therapeutic relationships in psychosis.
Healthy calves are fundamental to any profitable dairy enterprise. Research to-date, has focused on year-round calving systems which experience many different challenges compared to spring-calving systems. The objective of the present study was to determine the on-farm dry cow, calving, and colostrum management practices of spring-calving dairy production systems, and quantify their associations with herd size and herd expansion status (i.e. expanding or not expanding). Information on these management practices was available from a survey of 262 Irish spring-calving dairy farmers, representative of the Irish national population. Herd expansion in the 2 years before, and the year that the survey was conducted was not associated with any of the management practices investigated. Fifty-three percent of respondents had an average calving season length of 10 to14 weeks with 35% of herds having a longer calving season. Previous research in cattle has documented that both colostrum source and feeding management are associated with the transmission of infectious disease from cow to calf. In the present study 60% of respondents fed calves colostrum from their own dam; however, 66% of those respondents allowed the calf to suckle the dam, 23% of survey respondents fed calves pooled colostrum. Larger herds were more likely (P<0.01) to use pooled colostrum supplies, while smaller herds were more likely (P<0.05) to allow the calf to suckle the dam. The majority (86%) of respondents had stored supplies of colostrum; average-sized herds had the greatest likelihood of storing colostrum (P<0.05), compared to other herd sizes; larger sized herds had a lesser likelihood (P<0.05) of storing colostrum in a freezer, compared to other herd sizes. Although freezing colostrum was the most common method used to store colostrum (54% of respondents), 17% of respondents stored colostrum at room temperature, 29% of which stored it at room temperature for greater than 4 days. The results from the present study indicate that a particular focus needs to be placed on calving and colostrum management because this study has highlighted a number of areas which are below international standards, and may have repercussions for calf health. Furthermore, management practices on larger farms could be improved and, as these represent the future of dairy farming, a focus needs to be placed on them. Expanding herds are not a particular concern as herd expansion, independent of herd size, does not seem to be associated with calving and colostrum management practices on Irish spring-calving dairy herds.
The relative weighting on traits within breeding goals are generally determined by bio-economic models or profit functions. While such methods have generally delivered profitability gains to producers, and are being expanded to consider non-market values, current approaches generally do not consider the numerous and diverse stakeholders that affect, or are affected, by such tools. Based on principles of respondent anonymity, iteration, controlled feedback and statistical aggregation of feedback, a Delphi study was undertaken to gauge stakeholder opinion of the importance of detailed milk quality traits within an overall dairy breeding goal for profit, with the aim of assessing its suitability as a complementary, participatory approach to defining breeding goals. The questionnaires used over two survey rounds asked stakeholders: (a) their opinion on incorporating an explicit sub-index for milk quality into a national breeding goal; (b) the importance they would assign to a pre-determined list of milk quality traits and (c) the (relative) weighting they would give such a milk quality sub-index. Results from the survey highlighted a good degree of consensus among stakeholders on the issues raised. Similarly, revelation of the underlying assumptions and knowledge used by stakeholders to make their judgements illustrated their ability to consider a range of perspectives when evaluating traits, and to reconsider their answers based on the responses and rationales given by others, which demonstrated social learning. Finally, while the relative importance assigned by stakeholders in the Delphi survey (4% to 10%) and the results of calculations based on selection index theory of the relative emphasis that should be placed on milk quality to halt any deterioration (16%) are broadly in line, the difference indicates the benefit of considering more than one approach to determining breeding goals. This study thus illustrates the role of the Delphi technique, as a complementary approach to traditional approaches, to defining breeding goals. This has implications for how breeding goals will be defined and in determining who should be involved in the decision-making process.