Choice chicory is a productive forage herb, capable of finishing lambs and putting milk in the vat. Choice is a perennial chicory, specifically bred for persistence and disease tolerance. Photo one below compares Choice to its competitors after a 3-year trial. It is suitable for autumn or spring planting, however the latter provides mostly vegetative growth for the first 12 months of the stand’s life. Choice chicory is a biennial herb, meaning it requires winter vernalisation to trigger a seeding phase, so autumn planting typically results in the plant going reproductive in its first spring. Once chicory has its tap root established, it is able to draw moisture from deep in the soil profile, improving its drought tolerance. However, it does need rainfall to reach maximum production.
Choice chicory a suitable mix partner for a number of crops, including forage brassicas, lucerne, plantain, clovers and perennial grasses. It is able to add quality to perennial grasses during their seeding phase and through summer, by providing high ME and high protein feed. Chicory also can utilise nitrogen fixed by legumes such as lucerne and dilute the risk of red gut or bloat.
Farmers are using Choice chicory as a specialist lamb finishing crop, achieving 250-300g/day across autumn, spring and summer. In comparison to plantain & brassica, lambs will grow slightly faster on a per head basis over summer if grazing chicory, it will also grow higher herbage yields than plantain and clovers over summer due to its large tap root. Chicory requires sporadic rainfall throughout the spring/summer to reach 80-120kgDM/ha/day growth rates.
In dairy systems, pure stand chicory is being used as an alternative to turnips and forage rape in higher rainfall (800+) environments. Farmers can feed more than 30% of a dairy cow’s diet without risking milk taint which is a major benefit in comparison with brassicas. In high rainfall or irrigated farms, it is recommended to provide approximately 5 -6 hectares per 100 cows being fed. Australian studies have shown positive milk production responses when cows are supplemented with chicory, which is due to increased intake and improved feed quality.
In a dairy system, farmers are planting stands of Choice chicory, Relish red clover and Tribute white clover and grazing until mid-March. They then graze hard, do a weed spray prior to planting an Italian or perennial ryegrass. This 8-month system provides high quality lactation feed and covers the winter deficit left by the dormant chicory plant.
To discover more about how Choice chicory could benefit your farm system, ask your local AusWest or SPS territory manager, talk to your local agronomist or visit ausweststephenseeds.com.au.