Optimal grazing management for Ecotain® environmental plantain is similar to ryegrass.
Plantain is highly palatable and often the preferred plant species for grazing. However, there are situations where plantain palatability becomes an issue due to one of three situations that can develop on farm:
Plantain is one of the few species that can be managed on a similar rotation length as perennial ryegrass, making it a good fit for the majority of farm mixes. Milksolids performance for plantain has been reported as the same as for ryegrass most of the year, while in hot summers with adequate moisture there have been milk production advantages to plantain over ryegrass.
Establishment will be improved if it is first grazed when it has reached the 6-8 true leaf stage.
For future grazings in plantain dominant swards, graze plantain between 18 and 25 days from spring to autumn when plantain reaches 25 cm height.
When established in a ryegrass mix, graze as soon as plants pass the pull test and before the plantain (and clover if planted) will be affected by shading from the ryegrass, around when plantain has two true leaves.
For the second grazing in a mixed sward, graze when the plantain plant has 6 true leaves.
In plantain dominant swards, follow the usual ryegrass grazing rules of pre-graze of around 2800 kg DM/ha per hectare down to an even residual of around 1500 kg DM/ha.
Palatability of the seedhead declines from around 18 days after emergence. This can be tested by pinching down the seedhead stem until it is hard. At 18 days, the seedhead is soft down the majority of its length. For every day after 18, the seedhead lignifies around 1 cm a day and by day 28, the seedhead stem is completely lignified and unpalatable. If a large amount of seedhead is left in pasture, it needs to be topped to improve future quality and palatability.
If plantain is rejected at grazing it is important to reset the pasture or stand by topping, as the cows will not eat this rejected material at a future grazing. Leaving too much stem and allowing dead material to build up in plantain stands will also lead to plant loss later in the season due to fungal pathogens and plant disease, as well as low palatability.
Topping may also be required to control weeds, e.g. docks or thistles.