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A group of Chinese agricultural scientists has spent the week with the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) for training on grass and clover evaluation at AFBI’s Plant Testing Station at Crossnacreevy. Many of the 17 scientists are directors of grass evaluation stations from geographically widespread regions including the island of Hainan in the south, Fuzhou in the east, Inner Mongolia in the north, Lhasa in Tibet and Beijing.
Background
The first few weeks of lactation are the most stressful period throughout the lactation for the high yielding dairy cow as she adjusts to a new routine, mixes with a ‘new’ group of animals, and recovers from calving.  In addition, milk yield increases rapidly in the weeks following calving, and in many cases higher yielding cows are unable to consume enough feed to meet their nutrient requirements.  As a result, cows frequently enter a prolonged period of negative energy balance in early lactation. Negative energy balance is reflected in a loss of body condition, an increased risk of metabolic disorders, reduced immunity, and a decline in ‘functional traits’ such as health and fertility.  Indeed, it is not surprising that the vast majority of production diseases occur in early lactation, before cows reach their maximum milk yield.
Glenariff, an intermediate diploid perennial ryegrass bred by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) is the newest variety to be released from the Department of Agriculture For Rural Development  (DARD) funded grass breeding programme at Loughgall. The variety will be commercialised in spring 2015 by Barenbrug UK Ltd.
The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) jointly hosted a major Conference for the Northern Ireland beef industry on Thursday 13th November 2014 at the King’s Hall Conference Centre, Belfast.
The dairy herd at AFBI Hillsborough has recently been ranked second within the UK for Profitable Lifetime Index (£PLI).  The presence of the best available genetics within the research herd at Hillsborough ensures that the results obtained from research programmes within AFBI will be relevant to dairy herds on Northern Ireland farms over the next 5-10 years. Whilst the dairy industry adjusts to what will hopefully be a relatively short-term downturn in dairy commodity prices, investing in the best available genetics, as summarised within £PLI, is essential to ensure dairy herds have the foundation for a sustainable future.
The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) has identified European foulbrood in three apiaries in the northern regions of counties Antrim and Londonderry.  AFBI scientists detected the disease in samples of brood combs submitted by DARD Bee Health Inspectors from several weakened and dying bee colonies.
Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan, has visited the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute’s (AFBI) research vessel Corystes to view AFBI’s scientific work on the marine environment.
“More From Less: Can Science Deliver?” was the theme of this year's international Agri-Food Forum held on 11 - 12 November at the magnificent Assembly Buildings in Belfast. The Forum involved over 60 senior scientists drawn from across the United States, Canada, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, representing a wide range of Agri-Food disciplines. The Forum was opened by Professor Seamus Kennedy, Chief Executive Officer of AFBI, who welcomed the impressive international audience for two intensive days of strategic thinking and exchange of ideas.
Fresh grass in livestock production
Fresh grass is the cheapest source of animal feed for ruminants. For this reason, pasture-based dairy production has dominated certain areas of the world such as Ireland, parts of the UK and New Zealand. These countries take full advantage of high grass yields and a long grazing season. In Northern Ireland, grass-based production systems have traditionally provided a competitive edge to local milk production by enabling production at lower cost compared to systems involving year round housing. Grazing systems also provide a better image of dairy production to consumers and a number of European milk processing companies are now introducing a mandatory requirement for grazing during the summer period.
A new study has been initiated at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) to develop a more accurate means of predicting the nutritive value of wheat for broilers.  Wheat is the major component of broiler diets but there is considerable variability in its nutritive value across different batches. This variability results in major differences in bird performance and is a significant cost to the broiler industry.
Staff at the Veterinary Sciences Division (VSD) of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), using a forecasting system based on climate data, have predicted that the overall risk of liver fluke infection during this autumn and winter in Northern Ireland will be lower than in recent years.  A lower risk is predicted because of the relatively low rainfall during June and July.
The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) are jointly hosting a major Conference for the Northern Ireland beef industry on Thursday 13th November 2014 at the King’s Hall Conference Centre, Belfast from 10am to 4pm.  
The recent spell of warm, dry weather has resulted in an increased occurrence of crown rust on perennial ryegrass swards, especially on those retained for a late silage cut.  Crown rust (Puccinia coronata) is characterised by small orange powdery pustules on the leaf surface and is most apparent from late summer to autumn. For many years this disease has been quite widespread in southern parts of the United Kingdom, but it is now more apparent in other areas and has also been seen on swards on the western side of Ireland, from Co Cork in the south as far north as east Co Down.   A distinct feature of this disease is that the orange rust spores readily become attached to clothing, boots and machines which come into contact with it.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) recently hosted two important EU meetings in Northern Ireland on agriculture and water quality in Europe.
Wood fuel is generally viewed as a renewable and sustainable biomass energy source that can be used to reduce the burning of fossil fuels and the associated greenhouse gas emissions. However, there are often arguments and contradictions about the environmental and cost benefits of wood biomass, with opinions often based on anecdotal reports or information that may be less than impartial.