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Celebrating 50 years of research

2008 marks 50 years of agriculture and food research by Teagasc and its predecessor An Foras Talúntais.

A special supplement highlighting the main research achievements of the organisation over the last 50 years has been published as part of the latest edition of TResearch, the Teagasc research magazine. This special supplement reflects on the achievements in research that has help build a substantial body of scientific knowledge over the last five decades by Teagasc. Among the topics covered are:


The production and utilisation of grass has played a central role in maintaining the competitiveness of the Irish dairy industry. It is by far the most important crop with over 60 per cent of agricultural output in Ireland derived from grass. In the last 20 years the focus of research has moved to increased grass utilisation and strategic lengthening of the grazing season. Teagasc research has shown that to maximise profitability within Irish milk production systems requires optimum management of pasture. Current grazing technology targets a 300 day grass input of 3.9 tonnes of grass dry matter per animal per year. The role of research in developing efficient grassland systems has been pivotal to both dairy, beef and sheep production systems.

Milking Technology

The lack of efficient milking systems and poor milk quality were problems when AFT was set up in 1958. Early research undertaken by AFT showed that inadequate vacuum reserve or low vacuum pump capacity in a milking machine had a negative influence on milk quality and increased mastitis incidence in dairy cows. Subsequent research showed that poor liner design caused liners to slip, inducing sharp drops in vacuum and allowing bacteria to exit the teat. Also, liner design was shown to influence milk yield. Over 300 commercial liner designs were tested and a model was designed to link liner design with milking performance. A new liner design with flexible walls was developed that led to an increase in milk yields of about 5 per cent and almost eliminated liner slippage. In the ‘90s there was widespread adoption of this new technology by farmers and considerable improvements in national milk quality occurred. An evaluation of the milking research programme from 1975 to 1998 estimated that the internal rate of return was 48 per cent.

Cattle Reproduction

The cattle breeding programme in AFT developed many of the embryo manipulation transfer procedures, both in vivo and in vitro, that are in current practice. Information on the pattern of cattle embryo growth, development and viability is internationally accepted as the definitive piece of research in this area and is widely quoted. It is the basis for much of the experimentation currently ongoing in many centres. Teagasc co-ordinated a number of research contracts, establishing the molecular endocrine, physiological and developmental characteristics of the early cattle embryo. This work led to a number of optimal environmental and management procedures capable of increasing cow conception by up to 30 per cent.

Catriona Boyle | alfa
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