Benefits ofon-farm research put in the spotlight
AgriSearch hosted a half-day seminar at the recent EAAP (European Federation of Animal Science) conference held in the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.
The seminar focused on using on-farm research and the multi-actor approach to boost the effectiveness of knowledge exchange.
Amongst the speakers was Drew McConnell, chair of AgriSearch’s Dairy Advisory Committee. He highlighted the important role that on-farm research can play in enhancing knowledge exchange and gave examples from his own farm. Through his involvement in an AgriSearch and Department of Agriculture co-funded on-farm heifer rearing project he has reduced his herd’s average age at first calving from 29 months to 24 months. His current herd replacement costs are running at 1.9 pence per litre which is four pence lower than the Northern Ireland average of 5.98 pence per litre.
In addition, recent involvement in an AgriSearch led DARD Research Challenge Fund project on early lactation feeding has reduced feed costs on the farm by £50 per cow along with improvements in fertility and improved body condition, whilst having no overall loss in milk yield. Drew stated that the best learning environment for a farmer is another farm and that having scientists and farmers working together in knowledge exchange adds credibility to the messages for a range of audiences.
John Bailey from AFBI (Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute) spoke on the lessons learned from the highly effective DAIRYMAN project. Referring to one example, Martin Mulholland from CAFRE (College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise) highlighted how advisors, scientists, government and industry worked together in demonstrating and realising the benefits of low emission slurry application technology.
Francis Lively from AFBI continued this theme of co-operation highlighting how the BovIS on-line growth monitoring tool (which is freely available to all farmers on the DAERA rural portal) had been used in an on-farm research project led by AgriSearch to reduce the average age at first calving on six suckler beef farms across Northern Ireland from 28 months to 24 months. This message was transmitted directly to around 2,000 farmers who attended joint AFBI, CAFRE and AgriSearch farm walks over the course of this three-year project.
Sam Hoste from CIEL (Centre of Innovation Excellence in Livestock) spoke on the centre’s plans to use “knowledge integration” to link together areas of scientific expertise that heretofore had tended to reside in isolation from one another.
Other speakers at the seminar included Louis Mahy from the European Commission who highlighted the role of European Innovation Partnerships. Tom O’Dwyer from Teagasc highlighted the role of discussion groups in furthering knowledge transfer. Jonathan Birnie from Dunbia spoke on the findings of his recent Nuffield Scholarship on “Facilitating change within the red meat chain through the dissemination of new technology, enhanced cooperation and mutual sustainability”.
The final speaker was Julie Duval from INRA (National Agronomic Research Institute, France) who spoke on the perceptions of French private veterinary practitioners on their role in provision of services to organic dairy farmers.