23 Jan 2015

Benefits to new drought-resistant pasture mix

2:50 pm on 23 January 2015

Massey University researchers have found a new drought-resistant pasture mix which also helps sheep to put on more weight.

New Zealand farmers traditionally used ryegrass and clover as a pasture mix or pure chicory, but a post doctoral fellow in the Massey dairy group, Lydia Cranston, said as droughts became more common and severe, alternative mixes needed to be considered.

She had been investigating a new herb and legume mix containing chicory, plantain, and red and white clover, which because of their tap roots, could handle dry conditions better.

Ms Cranston said it could be a potential lifesaver and interest in the mixture was growing.

"There is a lot of farmers out there using it and seeing other people using it and wanting to get into it.

"It's a little bit more tricky to manage than a grass so that's sort of been the hindrance in terms of more people getting into it, but people are now learning about it and there's a lot more information out there about it.

"I guess the two main features that make it difficult is that because they're tap rooted plants they don't like and they don't cope well under any sort of grazing in the winter, that sort of limits the amount of it that you'll use on your farm.

"Generally if you wanted to use it it would be 10 to 20 percent."

She said chicory heleds sheep put on weight because they got more energy out of it, and the herbs and legumes broke down faster, which allowed them to eat more.

"The most exciting part is using it as a forage for lamb fattening and that particularly during the summer period but also year round, it can support greater rates of live weight gain and therefore you can finish your lambs faster on it than you can on grass."