Cost-effective quality feed in challenging environments

Cost-effective quality feed in challenging environments

25 August 2019

Ensuring quality homegrown feed in summer and autumn during the prolonged dry period is crucial for Whakatane dairy farmer Gareth Beynon.

Chicory has become a great option for farmers like Gareth who want to increase their summer production, especially when the low protein in ryegrass becomes a limiting factor during the warmer months.

Sharemilking on three separate farms in the Bay of Plenty, Gareth has seen the benefits of using Choice chicory as a lactation feed source during the dry summer months. The larger of the two farms consists of 187 hectares (ha) with 730 milking cows while the other farm comprises 540 cows across a total of 148 ha.

Proclaiming the addition of Choice chicory to his system as a gamechanger, Gareth’s production went up as soon as the cows went on to it. The benefits of chicory are especially evident in dry years, when Choice continues to supply quality feed beyond the point most summer turnips are finished. Dry conditions also affect the quality of ryegrass, with studies showing when pasture quality is poor – i.e. Metabolisable Energy (ME) below 10 - feeding Choice at 20 to 40 percent of the diet can increase milk solids (MS) production by 17 percent*.

Gareth’s experience of growing chicory spans 12 years. Having used chicory in mixed pastures he heard good things about Choice as a specialist summer forage crop.

His first foray into a pure forage crop was four years ago. He’s never looked back and is increasing the area of Choice chicory he plants every year.

His main drivers for success in growing chicory have been learned over time. He advocates knowing the soil’s fertility beforehand to check for any limiting nutrients, and for making the turnaround from a non-productive run-out pasture to a high-quality forage crop as quickly as possible, without cutting corners.

“We try to limit the amount of days a paddock is out of production by minimising cultivation and instead direct drilling into sprayed-out pasture,” explains Gareth. This past season Gareth managed to achieve six grazings from his Choice chicory paddocks, removing two tonnes (t) of dry matter (DM) per ha of high-quality feed at each grazing, with a grazing round of 22 days and a total yield of 12 t DM/ha eaten.

Gareth says chicory is an easy crop to grow and maintain; you just need to be mindful of insect and weed burden during establishment and feed the crop with nitrogen. “Chicory is a great summer forage crop, but it’s also a great tool for weed control, as it gives us the chance to control broadleaf weeds and weed grasses before we go back in with a perennial,” he says.

Gareth’s current rotation is going from a run-out, poorly-performing pasture into a Choice chicory crop for a season, followed by direct drilling an annual ryegrass and back to chicory for a second year, before following with a perennial ryegrass in the autumn after the second chicory crop. “This allows the paddock to have multiple herbicide applications to control any problem weeds to help set up our perennial ryegrass for the best start possible,” explains Gareth.

The addition of Choice chicory, with its deep taproot and high mineral and protein content can really boost a dairy farming operation wanting summer reliability and a good ryegrassing rotation tool.

For more information on how to incorporate Choice chicory into your farming system talk to your local Farm Source TSR.

*Lee and Minneé. (2012). DairyNZ Technical Series, August 2012. Chicory and plantain

Article supplied by Agricom