Teagasc researcher aims for us to be world class

Ireland, a world leader in grass-based ruminant production, was the target set by Teagasc Director of Research Dr Frank O’Mara at the recent ICT in Agriculture conference at Kilkenny.
Teagasc researcher aims for us to be world class

He said genomic selection has increased the rate of genetic gain in the dairy herd by 60%. Ireland will soon have the largest set of genotyped animals in the world (250,000), and a new Science Foundation Ireland-aided project on precision genomics will leverage this data.

He said grass measurement and allocation should be done as precisely as weighing concentrate feeds; there are good tools available, but they must be automated.

This could involve sending grass height and density via bluetooth or via satellite (including GPS location) to a smartphone app which can use information from PastureBaseIreland and Autograssmilk (an EU-funded project to integrate grazing with automatic milking) to work out the animal demand, and grazing allocations.

Drones could also be used for grass measurement, and pasture growth measurement from space is already used by Teagasc. Allocating grazing area without fences — could be one of the next steps.

Dr O’Mara said biosensors in veterinary diagnostics could also be part of the future, to allow rapid on-site diagnostics, either replacing or supporting lab-based diagnostics. Handheld devices could take small samples and give results in minutes for BVD, liver fluke, IBR, and Immunoglobulin G (IgG).

Already, farmers have the Teagasc e-Profit Monitor on-line tool to analyse performance and benchmark themselves against other farmers, and Smart Appi, the milk supply prediction model used by GIIL and Dairygold.

Dr O’Mara said there are many other databases related to agriculture (including AIMS, LPIS, ICBF, PastureBase Ireland, the Irish Soil Information System, the National Farm Survey, Met Eireann, Ordnance Survey Ireland,. Geological Survey of Ireland, and Tellus). Low cost integration of these with useful data, using methodologies that interpret data and present intelligent outputs back to farmers in real time, presents opportunities.

He told the conference there is huge possibility to improve efficiency, profitability and sustainability through use of ICT and related technologies, using Ireland’s excellent databases, and research strengths.

Converging these disciplines can give Ireland another competitive advantage — as the most data-driven livestock agriculture in the world.

Teagasc and UCD, in association with the Agricultural Science Association, have organised a conference on Advances in Knowledge and Technologies for Agriculture on Wednesday, June 10, in the Tullamore Court Hotel. The conference fee is €40 for ASA members and €50 for non-members. Delegates must register at www.asaireland.ie in advance.

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