Project Team: Dr Masoud Shirali, Dr Francis Lively, Dr Stephanie Buijs and Dr Denise Lowe

Project code: B-27-19

Organisations Involved: Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), AgriSearch, DAERA, CAFRE, HSENI and UFU

 Introduction: The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) has reported over a quarter of farm fatalities which have occurred since 2000 have involved cattle, thus highlighting the importance of improving livestock farmers’ health and safety within the industry. In order to address these concerns, a multi-stage approach is required, including the role that livestock genetics could play in improving the safety on farms.

The “TemperGene” project has been funded by DAERA and AgriSearch with the aim of investigating the potential genetic approaches to improved cattle temperament and other desirable traits. The Agri-Food and Business Institute (AFBI), in collaboration with key stakeholders in the livestock industry (AgriSearch, DAERA, CAFRE, HSENI and UFU) have designed a survey which will be performed by AgriSearch and distributed among farmers in Northern Ireland within the dairy, suckler and bull-beef industries, as well as across 9 slaughterhouses. The purpose of this survey will be to capture the number and severity of “near-misses” which may not have been recorded in HSENI’s statistics. Additionally, it will examine farmers’ attitudes towards animals with poor temperament, and their actions to improve fam facilities.

Objectives:

Literature Review

To systemically review the existing evidence on:

  1. The genetics of animal temperament and it genetic relationship with performance traits, and animal health and welfare, to propose proxy traits for assessing cattle temperament and the implementation of cattle temperament in a breeding program.
  2. The effects of environmental and managerial factors such as handling, facilities and farmer’s attitude, their managerial actions on cattle temperament.

Farmer Survey

To conduct a farmer survey on -200 dairy and beef farms including dairy, suckler and bull-beef farms, and the 9 slaughterhouses across Northern Ireland to capture the number and severity of “near-misses” which may not be recorded in the HSE’s statistics.

Project outputs: The aspects of the survey will be used to improve the understanding of health and safety conditions on cattle farms in Northern Ireland, to improve farmers’ awareness, to make evidence-based policies and to design multidisciplinary scientific projects to address the issues.

The information collected from the survey will focus on breeding decision, but the results will be a valuable source for researchers and cattle breeders alike as it will improve the understanding of farmers’ reactions to near-miss incidences and decisions regarding breeding and management to improve health and safety on the farm.

In addition to this, the project will also provide the fundamental knowledge on upgrading cattle breeding programs by adding behavioural traits on selection indexes in Northern Ireland. Currently, Prof. Donagh Berry and his team in Teagasc (ROI) are exploring cattle behaviour proxy traits that could be used in large scale. These proxies could be a genetic marker or a quantitative phenotype such as meat quality.