The cheapest way to feed dairy cows is to grow feed on farm and eat it in the paddock. Most dairy farms struggle with feed quality and quantity in summer and autumn, relying on summer brassica’s like turnips or Mainstar forage brassica. Choice chicory is an alternative summer crop that is widely used to increase milk production in summer, minimising the reliance on bought in feed or grass silage. There are several benefits of using chicory in dairy systems, which are discussed below.
Chicory has a large tap root, enabling it to access moisture and nutrients deep in the soil profile making it ideal for dryland or irrigated paddocks. Choice is an ideal forage crop to plant in effluent paddocks near the dairy shed as it can extract high rates of N, P and K from soils. In summer it can grow over 100kgDM/ha/day if moisture isn’t limiting.
AusWest and Stephen Pasture Seeds National Product Development Manager Hamish Best has this to say on Choice and where it fits into a dairy system.
“Choice is a great tool for farmers to lift their summer productivity, it’s a great palatable lunchtime/afternoon feed when the girls don’t really feel like eating due to the heat of the day. Having Choice near the dairy shed is their reward 2-3 hours before afternoon milking, with the only trouble being they often don’t want to leave the paddock, its that good.”
Chicory is a high-energy forage that holds fantastic protein levels throughout summer, with its ME ranging from 11.5-13MJME/kgDM depending on its growth stage. Protein levels range from 18-23% making it an ideal summer lactation forage. Typical ryegrass or tall fescue feed tests range from 9.5-10.5MJME/kg and 14-17% protein in summer time. Unlike brassica, there are no limitations to the amount of chicory that can be fed to lactating dairy cows, meaning no need to worry about milk taint.
Chicory has a fast rumen degradation time, meaning it is digested and passed through the rumen twice as quick as grasses, giving cows more time to eat more. Digesting feed creates body heat, meaning on hot days a cow’s appetite is suppressed. Feeding high-quality, home grown forages like chicory will increase intake and milk production as it passes through their digestive system quicker.
When Mr Best was asked what climatic conditions Choice would handle, he said “Choice would fit into any irrigation systems in South Australia, Northern Vic, Gippsland, Western Districts and Tasmania. Dryland chicory will also have a significant fit in southern Gippsland, Southern Vic and Tasmanian dairy areas.”
“It’s a simple system, we recommend 5 hectares per 100 cows rotationally grazed on 21-25 day rotations from December through to April, with the aim to grow 12tDM/ha in that time frame. This will feed them about 5kg/hd/day. We then spray the paddock with a light rate of glyphosate as a tidy-up and drill in a new grass such as Mohaka hybrid ryegrass or Legion AR37 perennial ryegrass to get a Choice chicory ryegrass-based pasture.”
Talk to your local agronomist today about using Choice chicory as a lactation feed this summer. For more information, talk to AusWest Seeds and Stephen Pasture Seeds.