The pasture herb plantain has been successfully adapted to pastoral agriculture and, while it is readily accepted by livestock, there is little information on corresponding animal performance of regularly grazed leafy plantain forage. Liveweight gain and trace element status of lambs grazing pure plantain (Plantago lanceolata) swards and high endophyte perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) pastures was evaluated for 85 days during summer (December - March) under irrigated conditions. Liveweight gain was significantly (P<0.01) higher for lambs grazing plantain (222 g/head /day) than ryegrass swards (135 g/head/day) when both were offered at an allowance of 2.5kg DM/head/day. Despite a lower stocking rate on plantain swards, lamb liveweight gain expressed on a per-hectare basis tended to be greater for the plantain treatment (6.0 kg/ha/day) than for the ryegrass treatment (5.1 kg /ha/day) although this did not reach statistical significance. Lambs grazing pure plantain swards had significantly (P<0.01) higher liver copper (2250 vs 715 (µmol/ kg fresh wt) and higher liver selenium (671 vs 380 (nmol/kg fresh wt) concentrations but similar vitamin B12 (620 vs 571 nmol/kg fresh wt) concentration compared with ryegrass-fed lambs. These results indicate that well managed plantain is able to support relatively high rates of liveweight gain in lambs through summer and elevate liver copper and selenium concentrations and, therefore, could make a significant contribution to pastures in lamb finishing systems.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 62, Palmerston North, 171-173, 2002
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