Smartsward – Future Proofing Irish Livestock Sustainability

Slaney Foods are delighted to support UCD on its establishment of a “Sustainable Pasture Based Beef Production Platform” at Lyons Farm. It is envisaged that this centre will develop a leading reputation nationally and internationally.  One of the projects being carried out at this centre is SMARTSWARD: Future Proofing Irish Livestock Sustainability.

Findings of the Smartgrass project to date have shown that the production potential of multispecies grasslands has been underestimated, with some mixtures receiving 90 kg N/ha per year out-yielding perennial ryegrass monocultures receiving 250 kg N/ha per year. Significant benefits in terms of performance and worm burden were associated with grazing multispecies swards. Most animal performance research relates to ovine production systems to-date, with the potential impacts of multispecies grasslands in other animal production systems and their subsequent implications for product quantity and quality less well established. The Smartsward project aims to change this by continuing on from where Smartgrass left off, but with a focus on Bovine production.

The overriding ambition of the SMARTSWARD project is to advance knowledge and understanding of multispecies grasslands, their impact on animal production and environmental performance, and subsequent product quality. This is a necessary advance from the findings of SMARTGRASS, which in sheep trials unequivocally demonstrated the production potential of these grasslands and advanced lamb performance and health status. This project will demonstrate whether these benefits transfer to beef and mixed grazing systems. This, together with advanced knowledge of their management will provide the necessary scientific information to advocate their adoption on commercial farms.

This provides an innovative opportunity to enhance the overall sustainability of Irish grass-based beef systems through the development of alternative swards that are less reliant on fertiliser inputs and chemical interventions to grazing livestock. Development of knowledge to allow wider adoption of multispecies swards will reduce input costs on farms and increase profitability.

Overall Objectives

  • To determine how characteristics such as botanical composition influence dry matter intake, worm burden, methane emissions, nitrogen use efficiency, rumen function, total tract digestibility and subsequent quantity and quality of meat produced in beef and beef production systems.
  • To determine the influence of sward type on forage intake, rumen function and the subsequent quantity and quality of milk produced.
  • To determine white clover effects on feed intake, milk production, nutrient utilisation & methane and ammonia emissions in cows
  • To determine the influence of sward composition on dry matter yield, and how this, together with the structure and composition of different sward types change over time.
  • To identify management strategies for multispecies swards that facilitate their on-going productivity.
  • Development of a novel feeding value database for different varieties of white clover and an evaluation system facilitate prediction of the nutritive value of fresh white clover.

Smartgrass Lyons Estate