AgriSearch has secured stage one funding for four projects based in Northern Ireland under the European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability (EIP). The EIP scheme aims to bring expert advisers, researchers and businesses together with farmers to tackle the challenges of farming through innovation.
The projects will see AgriSearch working in tandem with farmers to consider how practical solutions may be developed to address four issues: anthelmintic resistance; improving the reproductive efficiency of suckler herds; controlling leatherjackets in grassland and the feasibility of incorporating multi-species swards into the grazing strategies of beef and sheep farms.
Across all four Operational Groups, work is already underway. The group hoping to investigate new strategies for sustainable worm control consists of dairy, beef and sheep farms, as well as experts from AFBI, QUB and Sam Strain from Animal Health and Welfare NI. Control of parasitic helminths (worms) in livestock relies on effective anthelmintics, but their widespread use at whole-herd level is leading to anthelmintic resistance. This project will aim to gather farmer inputs into the design and feasibility of these strategies appropriate to Northern Ireland and with farmer-led practical evaluation on-farm.
Improving the reproductive efficiency has been acknowledged as a key driver of the sustainability of suckler herds. Therefore, this group proposes to gather and distribute knowledge on how to maximise output using metrics such as age at first calving, calving interval, annual calf output, AI usage and overall genetic progress. If awarded stage-two funding, it will also consider whether novel technologies such as twinning (either through embryo transfer or breed selection) could have a more significant role to delivering a substantial impact that could safeguard the industry. Dr Francis Lively (AFBI) and Prof. David Kenny (Teagasc) are providing expertise for this project.
The third group is generating a project plan to result in comprehensive management guidelines on the use of multi-species swards, allowing farmers to realise the environmental and production benefits on beef and sheep farms. Prof. Nigel Scollan (QUB) and Dr Denise Lowe (AFBI) will provide expertise and the focus will be on practicality of inclusion within an existing grazing regime.
A final group is preparing to look at new practices and processes to control infestations of leatherjackets on-farm to improve grass yields, livestock performance and profitability without the use of certain banned agrochemicals. Expertise is being provided by Dr Archie Murchie (AFBI) and Dr Stephen Jess (AFBI) to ensure the extent of the problem is understood and suitable mitigation strategies are implemented.
The scheme is jointly funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and is being delivered by the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE). 10 projects in total were successful at stage one. Three of these will then proceed to funding in September with a maximum of £120,000 awarded to each project.