Chicory and plantain are a unique species of pasture, which offer a number of advantages for grazing stock, particularly finishing lambs. Tonic plantain and Choice chicory are short lived perennials which last 2-5 years. Herbs have a well-balanced protein to energy ratio and low levels of fibre, which improves digestibility and rumen degradation. Compared to straight legume pastures, chicory and plantain offer a high quality diet but are less prone to animal health issues. Choice chicory and Tonic plantain have been proven on farms and in research trials to improve the production of both per animal and per hectare performance, when compared to other pasture species.
Chicory and plantain are both highly nutritious pasture species. Their high protein and energy content, paired with their low fibre content results in high animal performance. Live weight gains of 200-250g/head/day have been observed on lambs fed straight Tonic plantain diets (Moorhead, Judson, & Stewart, 2002).
Nutritional values of these grazing herbs can be seen in Table 1.
Table 1: Nutritional Values of Grazing Herbs
|Forage||Crude Protein (%)||Digestibility (%)||Metabolisable Energy (MJME/kgDM)|
A rapid rumen degradation rate is a strong advantage of grazing herbs. The time it takes for plantain or chicory to be digested through the animal is much faster compared to other pasture species. Some comparisons can be seen in table 2 below. Due to herbs quick degradation rate, large amounts of forage can be consumed by stock in one day. This allows more nutrients to be pulled from the diet, thus resulting in higher live weight gains/ day.
Table 2: Time to Digest Selected Pasture Species
|Fresh forage||(/hr)||Hrs to 50%|
Herbs are very palatable and are often preferentially grazed by lambs. This is a benefit as it minimises the lag period when new stock are introduced to a herb pasture. Due to the structure of the leaf of chicory and plantain, almost 100% of the plant can be utilised. The oval structure of the leaf also enables animals to take large bite sizes, which in turn with the fast degradation rate increases daily consumption. As both chicory and plantain are highly palatable and easily utilised, if managed poorly, the plants can be overgrazed which will be detrimental to their persistence. Therefore, herbs are most persistence when grazed in a high intensity, rotational grazing system.
The below table outlines the best practice grazing management of Tonic plantain and Choice chicory.
Table 3: Best practice for grazing management of Tonic plantain and Choice chicory
|Tonic Plantain||Choice Chicory|
|First grazing leaf stage||6 true leaves||7 true leaves|
|Pre-grazing height||25 cm||25-35 cm|
|Post-grazing height||5-10 cm||5-10 cm|
|Re-grazing||4-6 leaves||2-4 leaves/25 cm tall|