Performance of plantain pastures on Tararua dairy farms
Based on the published benefits of narrow-leaved plantain for reducing nitrogen leaching losses in grazed pasture systems, dairy farmers in the Tararua District implemented a development programme to increase plantain in the diet of cows. To address key establishment and management questions posed by dairy farmers, an associated pasture monitoring programme commenced in autumn 2019. The inclusion
of plantain at levels of >30% of harvested dry matter (autumn-measured) in perennial ryegrass/white clover pastures significantly improved annual herbage accumulation (+12%). Herbage accumulation of pure plantain and plantain-white clover pastures was not significantly different from established perennial ryegrass/white clover pastures. Forage quality was high in all pasture that included plantain and decreased only slightly in swards with high plantain content. In grass-based pastures, the greatest plantain content after a year was achieved when sown in a new pasture mix in autumn. However, the plantain content of all pastures declined with time regardless of establishment method and was typically <10% after two years. Dairy farmers can have confidence that the use of plantain in pastures will be unlikely to result in a reduction in
forage quantity or quality, but the need to find ways to maintain plantain content over time remains, in order to realise the benefits for forage supply and N leaching.
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