News and Views Issue 28

A Christmas message from AFBI's CEO

2016 has been a year of significant change, internationally, nationally and indeed also for AFBI.

Within AFBI we celebrated our tenth anniversary on 1 April 2016 – a significant milestone for the organisation. We also experienced major changes in staffing throughout the organisation. I particularly wish to acknowledge the contribution of Seamus Kennedy, who retired as Chief Executive in May 2016, and Lesley Hogg who moved on to pastures new in June 2016 from her position as Director of Finance and Corporate Affairs Division. However, we have also recruited a number of new staff to the organisation across all the divisions and I am confident that they will make a major contribution to AFBI science and improved organisational efficiency in the years ahead.

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Winter Fair 2016

AFBI had a large and diverse presence at the 2016 RUAS Winter Fair, demonstrating research and services provided in support of the local dairy industry. Scientists from across AFBI featured areas including dairy research, silage analysis, Cattle Health Scheme, BVD eradication programme, soil status and selection of grass and clover varieties as well as the launch of a new AFBI bred perennial ryegrass variety.

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Calling Northern Irish anglers! Sea angling 2017 survey

AFBI are working alongside England, Scotland and Wales to undertake a UK-wide survey of sea angling. We are asking you to take part in a short survey about sea angling and would also invite you to take part in a sea angling diary study. We particularly need anglers from Northern Ireland to take the survey to ensure we have proper representation of Northern Irish anglers in this UK-wide study.

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AFBI scientists building new Chinese collaborations

Two AFBI scientists, Prof Trevor Gilliland and Dr Rodrigo Olave, were among more than 130 delegates from the UK and China who attended the recent China-UK Agri-Tech Innovation Policy Roundtable and Forum events in Shaanxi Province, China. They were initially supporting the DAERA Minister, Michelle Mcllveen, who was participating in the UK delegation in establishing a new collaborative agreement between the UK's innovation agency, InnovateUK and the China Rural Technology Development Center (CRTDC). 

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AFBI Hillsborough leads UK in Precision Feeding Systems for Sheep

The UK’s first electronic feed and water intake monitoring system for sheep has recently been installed at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) research farm in Hillsborough. This new system puts AFBI Hillsborough at the forefront of sheep research in the UK and expands AFBI’s capability and expertise to conduct research into sheep nutrition and genetics.

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Date for your diary: Lunchtime Seminar - The Future of Grass Breeding at AFBI

Dr Gillian Young (AFBI) will be giving a lunchtime seminar on Wednesday 18 January 2016 at 1.30pm entitled "The Future of Grass Breeding at AFBI". Grass is the most important resource available to livestock farmers in Northern Ireland. One way of improving productivity from grass is to exploit the wide genetic potential available and to breed varieties which are well adapted to local farming conditions.

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Last call for GrassCheck 2017

In 2017, GrassCheck will once again be monitoring grass growth and providing weekly forecasts of grass growth rates.

However, we are also seeking 12 new pilot dairy and 18 beef farms to help us monitor regional differences in grass growth rate and quality across the Province. These farms will be required to measure grass each week throughout the grazing season.  Regular grass samples will also be taken for analysis.  Each of the dairy pilot farms will also have an automatic weather station installed, which will measure key meteorological data such as temperature, rainfall and soil moisture.

If you would like to know more about becoming a pilot dairy or beef farm visit where an information pack and application form can be downloaded. Deadline for applications is 12 pm, Wednesday 4 January. 

Meet the Scientist

This month Dr Francis Lively talks about his role in AFBI.  I grew up on a small beef and sheep farm near Rathfriland and have always had a keen interest in the beef and sheep industry. After finishing my degree in agriculture at Queen’s in 2002 I undertook a PhD jointly between the Food Science Division at Newforge and the Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland (ARINI) Hillsborough on beef eating quality.

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Nephrops norvegicus (Dublin Bay prawn)
AFBI research provides scientific evidence on stock levels of commercially fished species in the Irish Sea. Each December, the DAERA Minister presents this evidence to the EU Fisheries Council in fishing quota negotiations. This year, a proposed 9% reduction in quota for nephrops norvegicus (Dublin Bay Prawns) was reversed to an 8.6% uplift, (worth an additional £1.43 million), based on the scientific work that AFBI provided. In further meetings planned in the new year, quotas of herring, cod, haddock, whiting and plaice will all be reviewed, whereupon AFBI data will be called upon to provide stock assessments for these species.