Thursday, December 7, 2023

Plantain mixes ideal for lamb finishing

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Lambs will grow faster and finish earlier on a plantain mix, Professor Peter Kemp, of Massey University says. Backing up his statement is two years of results from an International Sheep Research Centre trial comparing year-round average daily weight gain of lambs on three pasture mixes: ryegrass and white clover; plantain, white clover and red clover; and plantain, chicory, white clover and red clover.
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For the trial, led by PhD student Sharini Somasiri, each pasture had three mobs of lambs during each season that were rotationally grazed within three 0.25ha paddocks. Lambs were moved when minimum sward height reached 5cm in the pasture mix and 7cm in the plantain and chicory mixes.

The aim was to graze 60 days over each season. The lambs on the plantain and chicory mixes had greater average daily weight gains compared with the pasture mix in all the seasons except early spring. Lambs on the plantain mix achieved the highest net liveweight production a hectare.

Second year results, still to be analysed, showed a similar relative gap between ryegrass and plantain despite the drought conditions.

“That’s a huge difference, 200 to 300kg/ha of extra carcaseweight …what we’re saying is you’ll finish more lambs on a plantain mix.”

The only disadvantage of a plantain mix was slower growth in winter and weed control.

“It’s essential you have weed control sorted before moving to a plantain-clover mix.”

Plantain mix grazing tips for lamb finishing:

  • Plantain should not be grazed until there are six leaves a plant. This greatly improves plant survival.
  • Maximum lamb growth is achieved on plantain-mix swards 7 to 10cm in height
  • Allow two to four weeks’ recovery from grazing. Plantain-red clover mixes should be grazed only monthly to ensure persistence of red clover. 
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