Agricultural research body AgriSearch has secured stage one funding for four Northern Ireland based projects.

The projects will see AgriSearch work alongside farmers to develop practical solutions to address:

  • 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.

The funding has been made available under the European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability (EIP). 10 projects in total were successful at stage one, including the four from AgriSearch.

Just three of the projects will be selected for stage two funding in September with a maximum of £120,000 awarded to each project.

Anthelmintic resistance

The group hoping to investigate new strategies for sustainable worm control consists of dairy, beef and sheep farms, as well as experts from Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) 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,” project manager, Jillian Hoy, of AgriSearch, said.

“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.”

Improving suckler fertility

The second group will work on improving the reproductive efficiency of suckler herds as a means to increase profitability.

The group is proposing to gather and share 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 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.

Multi-species swards

The third group is generating a project plan to result in comprehensive management guidelines on the use of multi-species swards to allow farmers to realise the environmental and production benefits on beef and sheep farms.

With expertise from Prof. Nigel Scollan (QUB) and Dr. Denise Lowe (AFBI), the study will focus on the practicality of including multi-species within an existing grazing regime.

Controlling leatherjackets

The 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 from Dr. Archie Murchie (AFBI) and Dr. Stephen Jess (AFBI) will ensure the extent of the problem is understood and suitable mitigation strategies 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).