Devising such a test is one of two Teagasc research projects announced last week which have been awarded Science Foundation Ireland/ Teagasc funding.
Poor fertility is a continuing problem in dairy herds and it is estimated that for each day the calving interval exceeds the well-established optimum 365 day interval for pasture-based systems, it costs an additional €7 per day per cow in the herd.
In-line automated systems for pregnancy diagnosis in cattle could be the answer.
Professors Michael Diskin of Teagasc and Mark Crowe of University College Dublin are leading efforts to validate and commercialise these systems, and progress them to application and licensing.
They are specifically working on development of early non-invasive and reliable molecular biomarkers of pregnancy in dairy cattle, in collaboration with Dr Eithne Dempsey of Institute of Technology, Tallaght and Prof Pauline Rudd of the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training.
Often referred to as smart agriculture or e-agriculture, the research uses information and communication technologies for agriculture.
Some smart-agri applications are already in place including milk recording, with others like real-time information on stomach activity in cows in development.
SFI/Teagasc funding has also been awarded for a project led by Dr Laurence Shalloo, Teagasc, in collaboration with Dr William Donnelly of Waterford Institute of Technology.
Their research team aims to use precision technologies and computational biology to increase the economic and environmental sustainability of pasture-based production systems.
Using information from grass and animal sensors to deliver effective farm management infor mation should enable more efficient farming, help grow a new e-agri industry in Ireland, and contribute to achieving the Food Harvest 2020 targets for increased production and exports.
Smart- agri is seen as critically important due to increasing herd size, requirement for increased efficiency, public concern for animal well-being and environmental sustainability. The projects will start later this year.
Dr Frank O’Mara, director of research in Teagasc said the funding has encouraged researchers from a variety of disciplines to think about how their skills could be applied to solutions for the agri-food sector.
“We look forward to these exciting collaborations bearing fruit for the Irish agri-food sector over the coming years,” he said.