An on-farm study of the herbage quality and sward characteristics of plantain-clover mixes during late summer and autumn and resulting lamb growth rates
An on-farm study investigated the herbage quality and sward characteristics of plantain-clover mixes and resulting lamb growth rates during late summer and autumn. Three farms were chosen, each with a minimum of 10 ha of plantain-clover mix (Plantago lanceolata ‘Ceres Tonic’, Trifolium pratense, Trifolium repens) used for lamb finishing. Each farm managed the plantain-clover mix area using their routine management without advice or comment from research staff. Throughout autumn, at approximately monthly intervals on the three farms, the pre- and post-grazing herbage masses, botanical composition, herbage quality, plantain dry matter content, secondary chemical composition and lamb growth rates were monitored. A low percentage of clover in the sward, a high percentage of dead stem material and a low crude protein concentration in plantain during dry periods, were identified as the most likely causes of low lamb liveweight gains during autumn. Grazing management during spring that maintains control of plantain stems and encourages the presence of clover, appears to be a key management technique for ensuring high lamb liveweight gains on plantain-clover mixes in late summer and autumn.
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