Dry matter production and animal performance on plantain and erect annual clovers were monitored on four demonstration sites from 2012 to 2014. These studies confirmed plantain’s potential for increasing both the quantity and quality of forage produced on cultivated and un-cultivatable hill country. Newly sown plantain produced more dry matter than newly-sown ryegrass over winter and spring. Across three sites, plantain pastures had more clover (32%, 45% and 45%) in October. Lambs grew faster on plantain and had higher dressing-out percentages. Plantain appears less competitive than ryegrass and the grazing management it requires suits erect annual clovers (e.g. Balansa, Persian, Arrowleaf). Because these clovers are aerial seeders, achieving seed set is challenging under grazing. Until management systems can be developed to allow seed set, these clovers are destined to be an annual crop producing a bulk of high quality spring feed in suitable micro-climates. Plantain and erect annual clovers offer a promising alternative to ryegrass-based systems on dryland. However, there is much to learn about the best place for each species and how they fit within a farm system. As with lucerne, plantain and erect annual clovers need to be rotationally grazed to prevent damage to the crown and growing points. The success of these alternative forages in dryland will depend on farmer willingness to embrace new grazing management techniques.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 74, Napier, 108-114, 2014
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