Words and images supplied by Agricom.
With increasing pressure to achieve greater returns, Ecotain environmental plantain has gained traction amongst sheep, beef and dairy farmers seeking to increase yields, improve feed quality and reduce nitrate leaching from the urine patch.
As well as being a highly productive forage option, Ecotain has proven to reduce nitrogen leaching by up to 89% in the urine patch especially when combined with a good autumn and winter active ryegrass species.
Ecotain environmental plantain is a narrow-leaved plantain capable of adapting to a range of soils, rainfalls and other climatic conditions. Ecotain is an upright winter active plantain with total annual dry matter (DM) production similar to traditional ryegrass-based pastures, however, pastures with Ecotain can grow better in summer and maintain feed quality over this period more consistently.
Ecotain, like chicory and legumes, is processed faster in the rumen than ryegrass meaning, for dairy farmers, it has the potential to increase daily intakes. Cow appetite can be reduced in summer due to high temperatures, high fibre content, and low protein pastures. Ecotain may overcome this problem by having a low dry matter percentage and being upright, making it more easily grazed by the cow (especially when compared to ryegrass at this time). Ecotain has good protein levels and high energy (average 11-12 MJ ME/kg DM) leading to the potential for improved milk production through this summer period.
For sheep and beef farmers, Ecotain plantain provides a new and novel pasture option which offers opportunities for farmers running significant flocks of last-lambing ewes, lambing ewe hoggets or winter lamb-finishing to create pastures that until now have been the domain of grasses. For beef, many of Ecotain’s benefits are around improving low quality pasture that is common in beef systems; with Ecotain being an upright high-quality herb that is capable of growing in moderate fertility, its fit is excellent. Cattle systems also benefit greatly from its ability to provide micronutrients such as copper and selenium.
Animals grazing Ecotain crops have reliably higher dressing out percentages than grass-fed animals and this is consistently in the range of about 2%, a pleasant surprise for most growers when they are reviewing their worksheets.
Ecotain is regularly used in a pasture mix with grasses, legumes and other herbs or as a special purpose pure stand crop. Once established, Ecotain stands can reseed freely, especially in drier and lighter soils, providing opportunity to regenerate a population over time although this can lead to elevated dead material and death of the original plants due to disease build-up. On average it will reliably survive as a productive stand for 2-3 summers, though exactly how long it lasts is often related to weed grass control, good grazing management of wet soils and allowing it to reseed in the second and third years through the summer grazing’s (this often happens without trying).
Ecotain plantain has shown real potential as a short to medium pasture option not dissimilar to Italian ryegrass or even hybrid ryegrass, although it does not provide the reliable longevity of some of the more commonly used perennial grass species. Ecotain pastures offer some great animal performance potential, particularly in spring, summer and autumn, as well as supporting a high level of animal health, milk production and nutrients for animals. Ecotain has proven itself in trials and to many farmers as a tool to fill the summer gap and to decrease nitrate leaching in the urine patch.
For more information on Ecotain contact your local Ruralco On-Farm Account Manager.