Research Programmes

Dairy Research Ireland is funding a number of multi-annual research programmes and several one-off research projects. The programmes for which funding is sought are evaluated taking account of need for the research, capability of the research organization, potential value of the output of research to farmers, how the results will be disseminated and if it is innovative.

1. Production Research Teagasc

The largest part of the annual funding allocation is for the Production Research Programme which is conducted by Teagasc. The current programme is for the period 2021-2026. The main elements of the Programme are;

  • Mitigating the impact of the Irish grass-based system on climate change
  • Improving Water Quality
  • Breeding for both higher value replacements and dairy/beef crossed calves from dairy herds
  • Dairy Cow Reproduction
  • Grass breeding and Evaluation
  • Grazing management
  • Milk Production Systems
  • Winter/Liquid milk production
  • Milking and Energy Efficiency
  • Dairy Cow Nutrition
  • Milk Production on heavy soils and BMW Region
  • Dairy Cow and calf health and welfare
  • People in Dairying

A new programme has been agreed for the 5 years 2022-2026, which is subject to a review after 3 years.

A copy of the programme can be downloaded from elsewhere on this website.

2. Food Research by Teagasc

The second main Programme receiving funding is for Food Research, which is conducted by the Teagasc Food Research Centre. This Programme is for the period 2022, and a funding request will be submitted for 2023 and the following year after consultation with industry in early 2022. This is covering;

  • Cheese (new products and efficiency) – investigating concentrated casein-polymer interactions as a platform technology for cheese.
  • Dairy Trace – monitoring the flow of microbes through Dairy processing facilities through metagenomics.
  • Biotransformation of whole milk powder and its derivatives for the generation of natural dairy flavours.
  • Milk Quality – by dissemination of information relating to key milk and product issues to the dairy industry through workshops, conferences and events.

Also see report for 2013-2014 which is also carried in the Publications part of this website – Teagasc Dairy Levy Food Report 2013-2014 (2)

3. UCD Lyons Research Farm

Funding is provided for the research programme for the Development of a high-output grass-based spring milk production system. This research programme commenced at the beginning of January 2019, and will continue until the end of 2023.

The aim is to

  • To incorporate the most recent advances in grassland management for dairy farms
  • Use a type of dairy cow that did not exist 15 years ago that has high milk output and fertility
  • Employ the best practices from nutrition research and dairy cow husbandry

The research will

  • Continue to evaluate a higher output spring system
  • Produce KPIs suitable for high out grass based milk production (grass, milk, fertility).
  • Optimise cow genotype in the system
  • Evaluate different nutritional strategies and management strategies in the system

Dissemination is via

  • Weekly notes published on the Lyons Farm Website
  • Hosting industry groups on an ongoing basis
  • Reports in the main agricultural media

4. UCD Veterinary Faculty

Funding is provided for a Calf Housing & Pneumonia Project which will run for a 4 year period, commencing at the beginning of 2019.

Key questions which this project will address for dairy farmers, vets and advisors will be:
1. How can we use modern technology to better assess calf housing?

  1. Can we use better, modern diagnostics to diagnose calf pneumonia?
  2. Knowing these, how can we modify existing calf houses to reduce the risk of calf pneumonia?
  3. What are the long-term health/growth/fertility cost-benefits for the heifer calves coming into the milking herd in two-years time?

5. NUIG Novel Slurry Treatment and Management Technology

This project presents a novel additive treatment of farm slurry to (1) significantly reduce GHG and toxic gas (ammonia and hydrogen sulphide) emissions from milk production and during slurry storage, while (2) enhancing the value and energy potential of the treated slurry for anaerobic digestion and (3) providing an enhanced slurry-fertiliser for grass production, reducing the requirement for mineral fertilizer.

NUIG has developed Methanogen Inhibiting Reactive Species, which is an innovative platform technology to eliminate GHG emissions from organic residues and animal manures. Uniquely, the technology specifically inhibits methane-producing microbes and traps nitrogen in non-volatile forms, while allowing beneficial breakdown of manure solids and hygenisation of manure to proceed. The technology is added in either capsule or liquid form.

In preliminary laboratory and pot-scale work carried out at NUIG, after 14 weeks of storage, treated dairy manures

  • Had emitted over 98% less GHG than untreated controls
  • Had an increased nitrogen content (up to 400% greater than untreated controls)
  • Enhanced crop yields (by 15%) when used as a fertilizer in pot-trials
  • Could displace chemical fertilizer (by 40%) compared to untreated controls
  • Increased biogas output by 40% during AD, yielding major economic benefits.

The product is safe and generates no environmentally harmful residues and contains only food-safe ingredients.

The project conducted work to upscale the slurry treatments using facilities at Teagasc in Johnstown Castle. This facility allowed for replicated, control testing and generated data suitable for international publication. The project also involved using portable gas analysers to test treatments and controls at Shinagh Farm (a 220 cow dairy farm at Bandon, Co Cork).

The results of the trials showed:

  1. Treatments resulted in reductions of Methane (over 80%), Hydrogen Sulphide (up to 80%), Nitrous Oxide (85%) and Ammonia (50%).
  2. A modification of the treatment with the addition of calcium chloride significantly improved the effect of the treatment.
  3. The treatment was applied to the slurry tank at Shinagh Farm while cows were housed and fresh slurry continuously added.
  4. The additive technology does not fall under the Biocides Regulation, thereby allowing for the immediate roll out of the additive.
  5. The treatment enhances the value of slurry for downstream uses such as anaerobic digestion and use as a fertilizer.
  6. The first farm scale slurry trial did not allow for replication, but did scale well which gives a strong basis for optimism that further follow up trial will provide more robust validation of the treatments for cattle slurry as a next step. Additional, independent trials will be carried out in Denmark in keeping with accreditation protocols.

This project commenced in September 2020, and was completed in June 2022. The project is led by Prof Vincent O’Flaherty at NUIG and will be commercialised by GlasPort Bio, a start-up from the university.

6. VistaMilk 4 year programme to quantify carbon sequestration in grassland

The project commenced in February 2021, and is a four year project. Science Foundation Ireland provides the bulk of the funding and Dairy Research Ireland provides the industry contribution.

The new National Climate plan aims to reduce GHG emissions from the State by 51% by 2030, and this poses a considerable challenge for Irish Agriculture. Enhancing soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration and reducing soil-based CO2 emissions offers the potential to reduce emissions whilst maintaining productivity and to further reduce the C footprint of Irish agricultural produce.

Agricultural soils are currently reported as a net source of carbon emissions due to historic drainage of peat soils for agricultural use. Correct management of drained peat soils provides an opportunity to reduce emissions and protect our largest carbon sink, with over a billion tonnes of carbon stored in these soils.

Enhancing C sequestration also offers value for money, with abatement from organic soils alone representing savings ranging from €109m to €327m over the period 2021-2030. National data are required to better quantify soil carbon emissions and sinks from agricultural land, enable mitigation measures that increase carbon sequestration to be included in the national inventory, and enable Ireland to benefit from the 2018 EU Effort Sharing Regulation.

Accurate estimates of net emissions from our drained organic and CO2 sinks associated with mineral soils is essential to enable the sector to achieve the ambitions set out in the Programme for Government, and the EU Farm to Fork communication strategy, as well as having the potential to create a very positive narrative around emissions in agriculture for the dairy sector.

Changes in SOC in response to land use change or land management change are small relative to background SOC levels and it can take a number of years to verify measurable levels.

The project will involve Soil C Monitoring on a variety of soils and management types, CO2 Flux monitoring, Field Scale monitoring for mineral soils, remote sensing and activity data and ecosystem modelling of Carbon, Nitrogen and water cycles, building on the recent investment in this area by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The outputs will be

  • Quantification of gross sequestration of managed pasture across a range of soil types for inclusion in Life Cycle Assessment.
  • It will quantify the C sequestration potential of pasture management, and establish the relationships between changes in CO2 fluxes and changes in soil C pools associated with pasture management.

Modelling of C sinks and sources will allow for a move to Tier 3 land management factors. Refinement of the models will allow for the development of more accurate decision support tools for farmers in terms of relating sward management decisions to enhanced C sequestration.

7. Accelerating the rate of genetic gain in both dairy and beef cattle and increase the value of beef output from the dairy herd using in vitro produced embryos.

This project, to be undertaken by Teagasc, was approved for funding in March 2021.

The project will establish a methodology to use Assisted Reproductive Technologies to intensively select for genetic improvement in dairy bulls and beef breed bulls suitable for use in the dairy herd. This is necessary to continue rapid genetic gain in the face of greater sexed semen usage, which will diminish the number of male dairy calf births.

It will also test the economic feasibility of using embryos with greater than 75% beef breed genetics on dams not suitable for generating replacement heifers. The aim is to transform the dairy herd calf crop to a combination of high genetic merit dairy female calves and premium quality beef calves.

There will be three complimentary studies

  • Evaluate the potential to accelerate genetic gain in dairy cattle (EBI).
  • Evaluate the potential to accelerate genetic gain in beef bulls suitable for use on the dairy herd (DBI).
  • Evaluate the potential to use low cost beef embryos to impregnate dams that are not suitable for generating replacements (commercial beef).

8. Comparison of IgE-Mediated Cows Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA) Management Strategies.

This project was approved for funding in March 2021, and the National Dairy Council is also contributing to the project.

The research study will be conducted by Dr Juan Trujillo Wurttele from Cork University Hospital. He is a specialist in paediatric allergies and sought support for a preliminary study to retrospectively look at data collected from three hospitals (one in Cork and two in Spain – Móstoles and Zaragosa), all using different protocols to treat CMPA.

Information on 200 patients was collected in each hospital. Of the entire sample, in 77% of the patients the treatment was successful, meaning that they acquired tolerance to milk. Successful treatment rates were 87% for the milk ladder in Cork, 61.0% for the avoidance treatment in Móstoles and 85% for the early introduction treatment in Zaragoza, showing significant differences between the avoidance treatment and the other two strategies. Asthma/ viral induced wheeze, allergic rhinitis and a diagnosis of other nut allergy showed a significant association with treatment success.

Conclusion and Clinical Relevance: Cow’s milk can be successfully and safely reintroduced using different treatment strategies other than strict avoidance. The milk ladder, early introduction, and complete avoidance as treatments for CMPA vary in their duration, number of hospital visits required and number of accidental exposures to milk during treatment. Therefore, these factors should be considered when choosing the most appropriate strategy for CMPA given an individual clinic’s resources. This is the first study that compares outcomes of patients undergoing these 3 different strategies for CMPA management, providing a foundation for the creation of new projects that will help to develop new ideas for the management of CMPA.

The study will continue until December 2022 during which time 4 separate research articles will be submitted for publication and the final report will be submitted to the NDC and Dairy Research Trust. The findings will be disseminated to health professionals and outcomes highlighted in the media.