The performance and profitability of plantain/clover pasture mixtures in East Coast farming systems
Yield and animal performance data from plantain/clover and resident ryegrass-based pastures were collected over several years from six properties on the East Coast of the North Island. This information was used in a FARMAXÂ® model developed for a hypothetical farm based on data collected by the Beef + Lamb Economic Service. The hypothetical farm was 495 ha with 50 ha of flats used for silage and/or winter forage crop. The base model had a gross margin of $703/ha. The 50-ha flat block was modelled as if in a plantain rotation with two thirds in plantain and one third in annual ryegrass each year. The higher yields and better-quality feed on the plantain block improved animal performance and carcass weights. Early mating of one-year ewes for feeding on plantain provided a very high-returning enterprise. More ewes and lambs were killed early at heavier carcass weights with a premium before the onset of summer-dry conditions. This became a force multiplier across the entire farm as more feed was available for other stock and lamb carcass weights increased across the farm. Highest returns were generated by using the extra quality feed to increase ewe liveweights by 8 kg. Whilst ewe numbers had to be decreased, this was more than compensated for by the higher lambing percentage and greater number of lambs from mated hoggets. The combined effect was an increase in farm gross margin by around $200/ha and in farm returns of $100,000.
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