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Ensuring a high-quality milking feed when ryegrass becomes limited over the summer months is a must for South Taranaki dairy Farmers Cornelius “Con” and Tracey Crowley. Located just out of Kaponga, the family farm has 124 dairy cows and operates over 36 hectares (ha). This environment is prone to summer dry that often limits plant available water from December through until March, reducing the quality and quantity of pasture grown.
In the last 10 years, Con has trialled various summer crops, from turnips through to chicory. For the last five of those, he has sown plantain, starting with Tonic and now Ecotain®, which has helped Con continue his impressive milksolids (MS) production. The addition of Ecotain, Relish red clover and Tribute white clover into the system as a full 12-month crop has allowed Con to continue to fully feed his cows through the summer and autumn months – offering five kilograms (kg) per cow per day of high-quality home-grown feed.
“When managed correctly, the palatability, recovery rate and MS production are great. We know it works,” Con says. “And once the cows have been grazing Ecotain, we can smell a difference in the urine.”
With help from his local Farm Source rep, Dean Kane, Con has implemented a programmed approach towards his Ecotain, utilising the strong shoulder growth patterns and maximising his crop for the remainder of the season.
Con continues to sow Ecotain due to the benefits it offers to summer production, and the fact that it will last him two summers before going back into perennial ryegrass also helps.
By adding Ecotain to his system, Con has reduced the amount of supplement he needs to buy in and hold MS production during the summer and autumn months. Last season, the farm managed to produce 548 MS per cow for a total of 1.22 kgs of MS per kg of live weight over his Jersey herd. Over a system three dairy farm, Con’s average production works out to be 1,887 MS/ha.
“Ecotain is a great forage crop for the system, while also having environmental benefits,” Con says. “It is so easy to include. We treat it just like ryegrass, and it just keeps growing back.”
The science from multiple peer-reviewed research papers has found Ecotain’s environmental benefits to function in four independent ways:
Dilute: Ecotain environmental plantain increases the volume of urine animals produce, which means the excreted N is in a more diluted form, resulting in a reduced N load in the urine patch.
Reduce: Ecotain reduces the amount of dietary nitrogen (N) which is excreted in the urine when compared to ryegrass. This reduces the amount of N released into the soil via the urine patch.
Delay: In urine patches from animals grazing Ecotain, the conversion from ammonium to nitrate is delayed. Slower conversion allows plants a greater opportunity to uptake N, significantly reducing the potential for leaching. Restrict: The presence of Ecotain plants in the soil reduces nitrification, likely through the effect of a biological nitrification inhibitor.
The addition of Ecotain environmental plantain to your dairy system can be as simple as broadcasting seed on with fertiliser, adding a few kgs in with your pasture mix or using it as a speciality crop mixed with red and white clover.
Article supplied by Agricom