Wednesday, 05 February 2014 14:46

Plantain adds lamb growth, yield

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A HAWKE’S Bay on-farm trial shows lambs fatten faster on plantain and yield better than lambs grazed on pasture. 


Awapai Station, a ram breeder for Focus Genetics, has planted 80ha of mixed clover and Tonic plantain over the past four years. Farm manger manager, Shane Tilson says they’re seeing outstanding results.

“We did a research experiment this season where we grazed half our Highlander ewe hoggets with their Primera lambs on plantain and half on grass for the last month of lactation in December. The lambs that were weaned off the plantain were a kilo heavier in carcass weight than the lambs that were grazed on pasture. And the ewe hoggets weaned 1.2kgs heavier than those on pasture.”

Lambs off plantain also graded better than off grass.

“It was clear the plantain lambs graded better, yielded better and put on weight faster.”

Tilson says lambs on plantain averaged 350g/day liveweight gain to weaning, a far better lactational growth rate than expected. The plantain also appears very palatable and seems to digest well.

“I find the lambs graze the whole paddock very evenly.”

Having plantain meant that during last year’s drought Awapai was able to grow all Primera rams out to meet contractual demands from farmers.

“Without plantain we would have been very challenged,” notes Tilson.

The plantain also enables them to get replacement highlander ewe lambs to a mature body weight earlier.

“We can mate our hoggets earlier so we can get the genetic gains earlier without compromising growth rates.”

Hogget replacements were weaned last month, coming off plantain at 66.5kg.

“They had put on 4.5kg while also rearing a lamb, so we were thrilled.”

Tilson says to reap the benefits of plantain it must be managed well.

“You really have to keep on top of it. We graze it when the height of the plantain is the height of a stubby beer bottle and we take the stock out when it’s the height of a stubby beer bottle lying on it’s side. You can’t just stick your stock in there and forget about them.”

Awapai Station held a field day in December to showcase stock on plantain. Focus Genetics’ chief executive, Gavin Foulsham, says he was pleased with the turnout.

“Shane had told us of his outstanding results, and it was important for us to share these with other farmers.

“I think Awapai’s results demonstrate the value of matching your investment in forage, with an appropriate investment in genetics or vice versa.

“It’s makes sense that if you are going to invest in quality genetics, you need to ensure that you are providing them with the forage that allows the animals to express their genetic potential. Awapai’s results with plantain have really hammered home that message!”


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