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Chicory Offers Potential Grazing Sward Value
16/07/07

Perennial chicory could have a valuable role to play in improving the grazing performance of English beef cattle and lamb. It also offers reliable yield on drought-prone land, according to the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX) which is currently evaluating the herb as part of its drive to help producers improve performance from home-grown forage.

New perennial chicory varieties have shown them to provide high quality grazing for both cattle and lambs.

chicory

Extensive New Zealand studies with new perennial chicory varieties have shown them to provide high quality grazing for both cattle and lambs. Indeed, over a number of years varieties bred for improved performance have proved capable of supporting daily lamb growth rates noticeably higher than ryegrass, albeit not up to the level of white clover.

Recent SAC work has further confirmed New Zealand findings that much of the improved performance from lambs grazing chicory could be related to reductions of as much as 40% in gutworm burdens compared to counterparts grazing grass and clover.

There is also evidence that the herb, which has a deep tap root not unlike red clover, could be beneficial in maintaining the productivity of grazing leys under particularly dry summer conditions.

It is too early to judge the extent to which the potential benefits of modern perennial chicory varieties can actually be realised under English conditions, let alone their practicality and value in commercial grass-based English production systems.

However, EBLEX considers the opportunity they offer for inclusion in long to medium-term grass ley mixtures well worth exploring, and a number of farm studies are getting under way including performance evaluations of ewes and lambs on perennial ryegrass swards with and without chicory at Newton Rigg.

EBLEX stresses that any producers keen to explore the possibilities the forage offers need to be aware that:

· Using the right type of perennial chicory is vital;
· Well-drained soils are preferable and slug control will aid establishment;
· Broad-leaved weeds need to be controlled before sowing;
· Plants of less than 150-200 mm are susceptible to uprooting by grazing stock;
· Chicory can bolt and become unpalatable if not managed correctly;
· Hard grazing can damage plant crowns, reducing productivity and persistency; and,
· There is the risk of milk taint if dairy cows receive too much of their diet as chicory.

English producers interested in finding out more about chicory should contact EBLEX on 0870 2418829 or e-mail brp@eblex.org.uk for details of planned summer and winter events.

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