Making good use of chicory
Friday, 25 March 2011
Seeing pretty blue flowers appearing in dairy pastures doesn’t mean farmers have lost the plot and planted a flower meadow. Rather, it is likely they are utilising chicory in the pasture mix.
Chicory cichorium intybus, is a herb and a member of the endive family. It has a long history of use in the human diet dating back to ancient Egypt.
| Chicory has its place in the paddock. Photo supplied. |
The leaves can be cooked or added to salads and have historical medicinal use. Chicory root is still used as a coffee substitute and in America it is added to stout beers.
The research and development of chicory varieties for grazing livestock has been extensive in New Zealand with the high tannin content of the leaves proven to assist in lowering parasite burdens in sheep and cattle.
As an addition to pasture mixes, chicory offers some advantages:
- Will grow in low ph soils
- High nutritional value
- Highly palatable to stock
- Perennial – will last for five years.
- Does not cause bloat
Once established, its long taproot allows chicory to survive summer dry spells.
A good addition to silage or baleage – it can be mixed with clover and other pasture herbs ie plantain.
The Awhitu peninsula can be challenging for dairy farming with coastal winds making summer dry conditions routine.
Big Bay dairy farmer, Rob Andrews, has been growing chicory on his coastal farm for four years now and is happy to share his knowledge.
Rob now includes chicory in his ongoing pasture renovation programme, which begins with spraying out old pasture; sowing turnips with chicory under-sown.
Then, following grazing of turnips, the chicory is under-sown with annual Italian ryegrass. The ryegrass persists well through the colder months when the chicory slows right down, Rob says.
With one-tenth of the farm in new pasture, Rob has settled on a daily grazing pattern, which gives his milking herd a two-hour grazing of chicory rich pasture before the afternoon milking. This allows a 30-day rotation, giving chicory the time it requires to recover fully between grazings.
Now convinced of the value of adding chicory to his pasture mix, Rob says although it is only one part of his management regime, the improved cow condition, health, milk production and in-calf rates points to worthwhile gains all round.