Study aims for a sweet spot
THE dairy industry is looking to boost milk production with a research project using a healthy herb that is like lollies for cows.
Research by the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture is looking at how the inclusion of plantain in traditional ryegrass pastures can boost production and profitability for Tasmanian dairy farmers.
Plantain is a perennial herb that grows year round. It can be used on its own, but most commonly is sown as part of a mixed pasture for grazing with potential for silage and hay.
TIA dairy research fellow Pieter Raedts and PhD candidate Adam Langworthy are leading the research and will be working with dairy farmers in the North-West and North East with on-farm trials set to start in October.
“Plantain is nutritious, but it is also extremely palatable. For the cows, it’s like having lollies sprinkled through the paddock and helps to increase their consumption as they eat more pasture while searching for the plantain,” Mr Langworthy said.
Four Tasmanian dairy businesses are taking part in the on-farm trials and about 4.5ha has been set aside at each site for the experiment. A trial site will also be set up at the TIA’s dairy-research base at Elliott.
Mr Langworthy said previous research by the TIA into including plantain, a forage herb, in ryegrass paddocks had found it could boost pasture-consumption rates and lift milk production.
“We are continuing this by looking at how farmers can effectively incorporate plantain into their grazing practices,” Mr Langworthy said.
He said said dairy farmers were eager to be involved.
The plan is to sow different rates of plantain into rye-grass paddocks and compare direct-drilling with broadcasting using a fertiliser spreader to identify the best method and coverage per hectare.
Mr Langworthy said the trials would be monitored to compare the efficiency of the sowing methods, the impact on plant establishment and how much this contributed to overall dry matter.
He said the aim was to identify the most effective way to incorporate plantain into existing rye-grass pasture. He said plantain required similar management practices to ryegrass, making it easy to introduce into existing operations.
APPETITE BOOST: Adam Langworthy is leading research into introducing highly palatable plantain to ryegrass pastures.