a chicory flowerChicory is sought out by livestock and is quickly recognized by its lovely blue-mauve flowers. It is a good plant if you live in areas where you don’t get a lot of rain as it has a deep tap root that seeks out moisture far below the soil line.
Sheep and cattle love it, and it is good for milk production . If sheep get enough chicory they fatten up a lot quicker and it is also a great herb for helping with liver issues and jaundice.
This plant has a high nutritive value (high metabolisable energy), highly digestible, and is high in minerals such as calcium, sulfur, potassium, sodium, boron and zinc and gives high stock performance and appears to be unpalatable to rabbits and hares.
Chicory grows well in summer and on dairy farms supplies a continuous summer feed and due to the protein content will maintain milk production and milk protein content.
There are some disadvantages of chicory and therefore there should be a good balance of other herbs in your herbal pasture grass. As chicory can grow rapidly stock can be poisoned by nitrate/nitrite and there have been instances of bloat . Milk taint is another potential problem and if grazing pure crops then graze for only 2 hours after the morning milking (only if the crop is safe from nitrate). Lambs are also prone to pulpy kidney .
PLANTAIN AS A PASTURE HERB
Commonly used as an important medicinal/healing herb in years gone by, plantain was also prized as a food source with young leaves and seeds being eaten raw or cooked and the older leaves when cooked.
Nowadays used to increase milk solid production, plantain is also used as a high performance spring feed for lactating ewes and their lambs. Plantain is digested quickly and is high in copper, selenium and calcium. If the goal is for weight gain, grazing on plantain mixed with red or white clover or lucern could increase stock liveweights. Ewes grazed on Plantain in a Lincoln trial were found to have greatly reduced feacal egg counts during lactation than of those grazed on rye grass.
Plantain performs well in pastures but is not as good as chickory or red clover at withstanding drought conditions. It thrives in moist but free draining soil conditions, living for two or more years and is being used in trials to effectively reduce nitrate leaching,
Plantain establishes quickly and is sown in Autumn once there is sufficient rainfall but some seeds can be slow to establish. Grazing should not happen before the plant has 6 fully grown leaves, that's about 7-8 weeks after planting. Grazing to no lower than 8cm and not grazed again for 2-6 weeks when the plants are 15-25cm high will give the best chance for the plants to thrive. Plantain is highly palatable to stock with the feed value being greater than white clover and rye grass, but lower when the plant is moisture stressed and the leaves have become old. Often not achieving more than 20% of a pasture, it adds quality to the feed.
Though usually pest tolerant, a native plantain moth, white butterfly and diamond back cabbage moth are the plantains natural pest with the impact on the leaf being aesthetic. Grass grub however does affect the roots and checks should be made of the soil before planting. Californian thistle and butter cup can hinder plant growth.
Permaculture teacher at Agrifutures.