Listen in as Al & Juddy cover everything about the highly nutritious herb chicory, which resonates with many New Zealand farming systems including dairy, sheep and beef.
Offering key recommendations and best practice tips for getting the most out of your chicory.
"Between its easily grazed habit and its ability to stimulate grazing by being a herbaceous plant full of water, in a hot dry environment you tend to find it is a perfect way of getting more drymatter and more energy into an animal under stress. Making it an ideal home grown feed." – Allister Moorhead
Allister Here we are with Lara from marketing with some more questions.
Lara Hey, guys. So we have Anderson who we will give a bit of a shout out. Yes Anderson Bob.
Lara Yep. He's a big supporter on our Facebook page. We thoroughly enjoy his support, which is awesome.
Allister From Chile.
Lara Yes, yep. He's asked have trials been done to show the production variation in either milk or meat between tetraploid or diploid and normal ryegrasses.
Allister Yes there has and the majority of the publications would be European in origin. But Glenn, do you want to follow up on that question?
Glenn Yeah. And just to clarify, we're talking about diploids, which is two sets of chromosomes, and we're we've doubled those to create a tetraploid. These plants tend to be larger, less tillers and larger cells, so that the tetraploiding of ryegrasses particularly and that's what we end up with. Theres certainly been quite a bit of work both in dairy and in beef animals in terms of what benefit that brings the animal. Typically that sits around the 3 to 5% mark in terms of productivity gains. This is driven largely by some changes in digestibility and even some changes in total intake from the animal. But the magnitude of those differences is around 3 and 5% and largely are driven by being slightly more easily harvested. So are more erect with slightly wider leaves and as I said the digestibility and that's related to because we've got larger cells, we've got the cell wall has a slightly lower proportion of the cell volume, we have larger cells, so that drives a slightly higher digestibility. So yep, there's been a lot of research actually around the benefits of doubling chromosome number in ryegrasses.
Allister The figure is about that 3%. And for you, Bob in Chile, I know you're a sheep farmer and the reality is it's trait for sheep is elevated palatability, good utilisation. You tend to find the separation between tetraploid and diploid occurs most when quality is declining. As you all know, sheep don't like wet feed in general, so sometimes tetraploids in the middle of winter when things are wet are not always going to show you those advantages. And it's not until the quality of pasture starts changing and declining as it gets warmer that you see the tetraploid trait for sheep particularly get more pronounced. So that's as you head in towards summer other tetraploids’ tend to have the advantage. I would give one proviso that Glenn's alluding to with a 3% performance advantage you tend to find in literature. One of the things about tetraploids is that it's not hard to overgraze and because of their palatability and if you overgrazed just once or twice, you may not see the genetic potential of the varieties and styles that you've used. So you only get the 3% advantage if you feed your animals enough. So once the feed is there, they can express that productive advantage. But every now and then when you overgraze because of high levels of palatability, you may find having the amount of feed there is one of the limitations. Thanks Lara.
Lara Brilliant. Alistair has a question here too. Will there be further discussion around other grasses? We have a lot of prairie grass popping up in our area and the cows really seem to love eating it.
Allister Now if I'm correct, Allister is from Cambridge in the Waikato. And so the answer is yes. We'd love to get into some of these other species as well and prairie grass is really worthy of a further discussion at the later date. It's a very interesting grass and it has a role around a lot of different landscapes, but particularly in the more free draining soils of the country.
Glenn It's a brome isn't it Allister.
Allister Yes it is a brome that's broader. It's a free seeding species that seeds quite early in the season and carries on seeding throughout, but for cattle that seed head is quite palatable. So it's actually quite an interesting plant. So you say Alastair will have a go at that one later on.
Lara Sweet, thanks. And just a quick one. Does Al's front number plate says gin because the rear one says Tonic?
Allister No, it doesn't. Lara No, it doesn't. I was given a number plate tonic a long time ago. For some listeners, that is the name of one of the first commercial plantains that was released. And I cut my teeth in my career, sort of tuning it from commercialising it from a weed species to a forage species through the late 90's and early 2000s. And the plant breeder, Dr. Alan Stewart, bought me the number plate tonic as a wedding present because that's apparently all I ever talked about. Who would think that? But as it turned out, no, he didn't give a matching set with the gin for my wife, which would have been an interesting opportunity. But no, that's the background to the number plate.
Lara Might be a gift for the golden anniversary.
Allister Exactly. It could well be. Thanks Lara
Lara If you have anything technical, serious or anything and everything in between, please feel free to flick a message to our Facebook page AgricomNZ or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Allister Thanks Lara from marketing.
Glenn Well, welcome into The Al & Juddy Show. Hi Allister.
Allister Hi, Juddy.
Glenn What are we going to talk about today?
Allister Juddy, we're going to talk about another herb, actually, we've covered of a herb called plantain in a previous podcast on Ecotain, actually. And this time round, we're going to be talking about the pasture herb chicory. And it's actually another really important first for New Zealand, as in the late eighties or in the eighties, AgResearch at the time pretty much created the first forage chicory that we used as a variety called Puna. And from that we started to see a huge amount of research being done on it and a lot of that will be teased out today.
Glenn And hopefully will cover some farm systems that would use this in and some of the limiting factors that we might have with this particular plant and most of the time we're getting a really good animal performance of this particular herb. But let's start at the beginning because it's a pretty good place to start. Tell me a little bit about the plant. You know, how would you recognise that you've got chicory in your pasture, apart from the fact that someone's charged you for the seed?
Allister Oh, yeah. Once upon a time, chicory was a very winter dormant plant and actually through the timeframe that its dormant, you would actually mistake it for a dandelion. And so that's a little bit of the visual component of the variety. Puna from the past, there'll be any number of plants within the Puna population of the past. That in winter you would have actually mistaken for a dandelion. So if that can help a few listeners get their heads around what it is, what's happened since then as a number of varieties have been created, all of which have got a very defined leaf. And it's called a whole leaf. Basically. It's not segmented in any way. And because of that, it's quite distinctive and very herbaceous. And for the majority of the year, this plant tries to grow a little bit more upright, a lot more of the modern genetics, have a little bit of winter activity or cool season activity. So it is very herbaceous, very high in water content, a herb that has got a distinctly large taproot that probably could be related to what you would see in some of the weed species, such as dandelions. In Europe, chicory is actually still used as an arable crop where it's also been described as witloof in that region and it's a vegetable crop in that state.
Glenn Yes, really interesting. If you look back on the use of chicory over time, one of the more famous uses of chicory is actually as a coffee substitute. It's a material that they use to substitute coffee, but it's got no caffeine in it. And I don't know why A. You'd want to substitute coffee and B. Not drink caffeine but they did that and it was actually the ground up root which had been roasted and that was what they were making this coffee substitute out of.
Allister It would be an important thing to just to recognise that I wouldn't rush around breaking the root of chicory and just tasting it because, oh my god, someone did that to me once. Might have been a Dr. Alan Stewart plant breeder that I've had in my career my whole time. And he might have said have a wee taste of this Al and oh for about 30-40 minutes afterwards trying to get the taste of that root, that raw chicory root out of my mouth was, oh, it's awful.
Glenn Quite bitter. So you've just described the chicory plant, bit like a dandelion lovely blue flower.
Allister Correct, probably the more distinctive state in its reproductive form. It's got a very sky blue. Very, very, very attractive little flower.
Glenn Yeah. And on the end of quite a large reproductive growth.
Allister Woody stem, it can be closing in on six foot high inside a seed production crop. But in pastoral zones it could get probably between waist and midriff high if left unmanaged.
Glenn And it's hollow too, isn't it?
Allister Once it gets to it's lignified state as it becomes woodier and woodier. Yet the central part is hollow.
Glenn And we'll touch on why that's important when we come to a little bit of the uses of it and some of the limitations of it. In terms of its got a taproot the other thing I want to cover because it's quite unusual about the way this plant seeds is tell me about the pollination of chicory.
Allister Yeah it's actually quite a difficult plant to get high germination out of the seed because if you can picture this tall stem that could be, like I say in production terms is high as six foot high. The flowers come out the best description I can give with not being an arable person and not knowing the exact detail, but they come out in whirls so they don't all just flower all at once. So all the different branches within the seed head sort of have individual flowers popping out on certain days and sort of like constant waves of flowering. Now the key to chicory is that when a flower is created, a seed is created in each flowering point. However, only the flowers that are pollinated go through to create an embryo and then go through to become a viable seed. And so if you flower over, say, 2 to 3 to even four or five weeks as the case of this plant does. If you have a whole lot of bad weather, the predominant pollinator is bees and bees have an extremely good union. So the moment the weather gets rough, bees stop working. And so you can go for whole days where there's not enough bee activity to pollinate all the flowers. But those flowers still set a seed, not a viable seed, but a seed. What this means when it comes time for harvest time, all the flowers that have set seed during periods of rough weather where there's no pollinators acting that seed enters the bulk can't be dressed out because it's exactly like a pollinated and viable seed. And so what that does is impact your seed percentage. So it's a very difficult seed crop, particularly in summers that have variable weather. And because it's quite an intermediate and long flowering crop, there are any number of days that sometimes bees aren't as highly active. In New Zealand, we're lucky to have bumblebees and are really active all the time. But our populations aren't high enough to cover for the sheer numbers that the traditional honeybee can actually pollinate.
Glenn And so I guess you call it blind seed.
Allister I don't think you would call that because that's a disease. This is just literally just not being pollinated and actually still forming a seed, just not a viable seed.
Glenn Yeah, alright tricky to produce seed off it.
Allister Well, the other big point, though, that's just the germination. The other thing is from a seed production technology, we are talking about trying to create pure seed of a plant that is herbaceous and it's a dicotyledon plant that really relates significantly to a whole lot of thistles and a whole lot of weed species. So the sheer numbers of chemical options you have to create pure seed is quite limited. On saying that our seed production technology team has certainly got it down to a fine art, and in some of our growing areas of the world we have compared to the past and the history, we have very, very clean seed lines now.
Glenn So when we think about farm systems now, what are the farm systems that we would use chicory in? And I guess we've probably got two strains of thought here. We've got dairy systems and then other systems. Can you take us through how we'd use this first and foremost in a dairy system?
Allister Yeah, and I think this is really important to understand and for context, again, for a greater listenership, we have quite a diverse landscape in New Zealand from quite a large area of natural rainfall, dairy environments. But both in the south and in the north of New Zealand and also irrigated landscapes and the South Island of New Zealand, we're defined by being cool, not cold compared to the rest of the world, but cool in the winter and we cool up quite slowly in the spring and then have a decent summer period, which is not extreme but can be limiting at times and then cool down quite fast in the South Island in the autumn, particularly from about the middle of the South Island to the south. In the north, though we have a much milder winter environment. We warm up faster in the spring and we tend to have a pretty almost on the edge of subtropical vibe around our dairy systems in the middle to the Upper North Island. Now it's in this zone that chicory has actually excelled in unirrigated dairy environments because just with the changing phases of the climate at the moment and changes in climate at the moment, we are seeing more intense summers that are lasting for longer. So in the dairy and the supplementary feed environment in dairy farms in the past these farming systems have evolved and relatively secure landscapes, summers are relatively small, maybe anywhere between four and maybe six weeks maximum and then back to a relatively highly productive state. But with climate variation, we have seen more intense summers in recent years, maybe the last 14 or so years, 15 sort of years. And what we're seeing is that four to five week window, which was really well serviced by summer turnips in the dairy sector for a supplementary protein source where you're taking spring moisture, holding it to 10 to 12 tonnes of standing feed and then strip grazing that through your dry window. What we're seeing is those dry windows are just getting longer and longer and longer and turnips don't last the whole length of the dries that have been occurring. So what we've seen is the emergence of chicory as a summer crop in those dairy zones. And what's the strength of the chicory is that it's a multigraze, it's not one hay shed it's actually a grazing stand that the moment you get off it, it regrows extremely quickly. And the key to that is that if your drought lasts for longer than your four to 5 to 6 week window and the drought goes on further and further and making life more and more stressful on a dairy farm, chicory tends to just get better and better. So it is as a species that's come into its own with the changing landscape, it's coming into its own because the dry phases on a productive unirrigated dairy farm are no longer as easily defined. And there is a lot more flexibility in a grazing regrowth herb for maintaining high quality protein and some of the other nutritional traits we're going to talk about shortly.
Glenn And I guess so it's living on it's taproot and accessing moisture further down the profile and can grow quite nice through those dry periods relative to what we've been using in the past.
Allister And relative to an already established pasture that's limited by temperature and limited by heat and moisture profile.
Glenn And the really interesting thing about the use of chicory and that system is actually most of it doesn't go through a full 12 months.
Allister No, not at all. And this is the point is the value proposition is, you know, what you're looking at with home grown feed is that you're actually looking at what you can grow to substitute what you're missing most. And in the summertime, in a brown landscape, you're looking at green oasis and anything that's green is likely to have high levels of crude protein. And between it's easily grazed habit, its ability to stimulate grazing by literally being a herbaceous plant full of water in a hot dry environment you tend to find it is a perfect way of getting more dry matter, more energy into an animal under stress, but also a way of getting protein into a milking animal. So every other form of protein you buy in from off farm is 3 to 4 times the cost of what it is to sow and then harvest a certain volume of chicory. But that probably gets into how you make chicory work on a dairy platform and how it actually works Glenn, because I think then we will get off this and talk about sheep and beef and then we'll see the quite big difference in the style of system.
Glenn Yeah. So from an animal perspective, you know, our recommendations are that animals are particularly lactating, aren't seeing more than about a third of the diet being a chicory. And that's to do with the ability of this plant to actually create some milk taint. So that's why we limit the proportion in the diet. But describe how you would typically use chicory in a dairy farm.
Allister Well, also how you go about it. So you've hit upon the first part of the recipe, which is like we're looking at a plant that is looking to be about 20 to 25% of the animal's diet through the summer. So from that you do some feed budgeting back to find out how much area you may need to commit to in a summer cropping program. So a general rule of thumb, depending on how warm and growth your environment is, is that you are looking at between four, four and a half to five hectares per hundred cows as the commitment to sowing. And once you do this and that's based on allocating about four kilograms of the cows diet through the summer months as chicory in a break. The feeding of that break is we highly recommend that it's pre the afternoon milking. So in the heat of the day when the animal is heat stressed they are eating a herb that is full of water. It's actually elevating appetite at a time when actually appetite is quite suppressed in the heat of the day so the couple of hours before afternoon milks, and it fits very, very nicely. However, it's getting it going for the economics of a relatively short term cropping system that's important. So the take home message with this plant, as you can't afford to be late, you've got to be careful being too early, but you can't afford to be late. There's a couple of key drivers to this. So one of them is the change in soil temperature and we're looking at a 12 degrees soil temperature and rising. My recommendation in general terms is it's sitting somewhere in literally mid-spring as your target time for establishment. If you get your conditions right, the key is it's the speed of first grazing. That is the most important thing about this. And the most important thing is if you get it late you've got to remember you're putting a crop in as a dry land, a bank of feed in a dry land environment. So that means by definition, between sowing and being able to graze it, you're going dry. If you sow late, the chances of the germination phase being right over an early dry phase is really high. So sowing time and sowing window is one of the most important things to create an economic outcome for the year. Because after that, the economics is defined by how many grazing you can achieve, because there's a couple of criteria in our New Zealand dairy system that we find that we have to do because chicory is perfect for the summer, but it's not perfect for longevity on a dairy platform. That's probably the critical point, establishing before the dry, but not too early When it's too cool to get the speed of establishment, you need to get it into your grazing system as early in the season as you possibly can.
Glenn Excellent. And I guess in a dairy system, there's not too many rules from a grazing perspective because it's in for such a short period of time.
Allister Correct. So I suppose the primary rules are quite simple when there's not a bit of research on this, but you need the plant to be at about seven true leaves. And because it's a big herbaceous plant and it looks almost like a vegetable crop in its growing stage. It's not quite that hard to actually count those leaves, but you're aiming for about seven true leaves. At this point the animal won't be pulling out many of these plants. And so that's a really important point. You don't want all your future regrowth to be compromised by being pulled out of the ground.
Glenn So the seven true leaves are at first grazing.
Allister At first grazing. So that would typically coincide with a height of about 18 to 24 centimetres, which is about 2000 to 2500 kilograms of dry matter. Now, the grazing residuals, we are looking at about 4 to 5 centimetres, but as you've already pointed out, the rules around grazing residuals aren't hard and fast because it's not in the ground for a long time. You can get away with quite a bit, but the big point is you want to be able to come off it and let it regrow the very next day. And in good growth environments, you're aiming for about a 21 day rotation and you're probably targeting about 2800 kilograms standing, about 25 centimetres in the regrowth phase.
Glenn And it's something that you would apply some nitrogen in to through the growing season.
Allister Correct about 30 to 40 units of nitrogen every second grazing. So the art of getting an economic return from chicory, as I've already stated, to get it in on time, there's actually nothing valuable to you. You're off to taking poor producing pastures, not your best paddocks, your most average paddocks out and there is nothing that those paddocks are going to produce you of meaning during the summer dry. So make a decision, get your timeliness right on the mark and that gets you in the chance to have the most regrowth cycles through the year. Because the economics of growing chicory is to get as many regrowth cycles as possible, and that's all set up by the day you put it in the ground.
Glenn Yeah. So if you're late, you just pruning off the days that you've got to use it.
Allister And exposing yourself to trying to get established in droughted conditions. And that's where you see literally only the wheel marks within a paddock germinate because of the soil consolidation.
Glenn So dairy system, anything else that we need to be aware of in a dairy system?
Allister Well, I think that's probably where we get to this conflict between sheep and beef expectations and dairy expectations. We must just remember a lot of unirrigated dairy environments in the country, maybe summer dry and therefore this really drought tolerant and productive summer cropping system is ideal. But there are also well over 1000 to 1200 millimetres of annual rainfall, which means that when they start raining, the landscape actually then gets wet. And we are discussing carrying quite a large amount of weight with these cattle on these pastures. So then we come back to the morphology of chicory, which is basically a quite a large taproot. And that taproot isn't a hard and coarse root structure. It's actually quite soft, which basically means as the season progresses, the soils wet up and you get more grazing events over the top of wet soil's. Perennialty can collapse quite dramatically in the following spring if you try to transfer that chicory in a dairy platform into a second year. And so in the heavier landscapes of particularly the North Island of New Zealand in the summer cropping dairy world, about 85% of all chicory would be sprayed out or suppressed by spray in the autumn and then stitched in with permanent pasture. So you have three, four or five grazings. And then if the temperature regime is still ideal, you suppress the chicory to the point of actually killing some of it and then you get your new perennial pastures in because grass still is king on the platform for the majority of the year. The key really is if you don't suppress that chicory, it is actually still in its prime growth phase and will act against your under sowing program almost like an intense weed contamination. So you must suppress it to get a good outcome from your sowing of your new grasses.
Glenn So that's probably dairy in a nutshell.
Glenn Very useful plant when it comes to supplementing those dairy cows in what seem to be an increasing length of time.
Allister Flexible feed with chicory is how I would really describe it. You know, if you really need it, you just keep it. And that's the big point. So as those dry periods go longer and longer into the autumn, chicory just gets actually stronger and stronger, which is, you know, a terribly stressful time on farm when you've got a lot of big animals wanting that you are needing to feed them.
Glenn So let's contrast that with the way we'd used that in a sheep, beef or deer system, for example.
Allister Yeah, so that's a really good point. So for starters, there's actually two distinct worlds we'd use it in, and mostly some of these will be limited by the knowledge of your weed burdens within your landscape. But really chicory has been the domain of mixed perennial pastures. So creating diversity in mixed pastures. And, you know, there's no doubt about it when you're talking about functional diversity on farm, white clover, red clover, plantain, chicory, these are very, very traditional options in the New Zealand farming system in the temperate pasture world. So we've been using these for 30 plus years. The way in this form, there are very, very few other functional, diverse species that you can add to pasture in real terms. And chicory is the heart and soul of one of those herbaceous options. So typically one or two kg's in a pasture mix, Juddy would be standard go to. But remembering weed control and thistle control particularly, is one of the limitations to long term success.
Glenn And I think where we do mix it with these other things, the things that allow this to have some longevity in that pasture. I guess you've mentioned feet heavy soils that tends to be a bit more problematic for this particular plant, whether we've got free draining country that we can hold chicory a little longer in those I guess the other thing we'll talk a little bit about grazing management, but we're we've got slightly longer rounds that will favour chicory relative to short grazing intervals if you like. So if in a mixed pasture, you know, and we'd be using it in our normal pasture mixes it adds diversity as you say, it adds some sort of resilience to some of the environmental challenges to that. But that's one way we would use that.
Allister I think you just got to keep remembering the sheep and beef industry is over a much broader landscape, and it's on a much broader group of soils throughout our country. So it's not just the traditionally summer safe or the traditionally high fertile landscapes. So chicory has fitted in those landscapes because of its drought tolerance and true extensive dry and low rainfall when I'm talking about that like 500 mill rainfalls right through to 750 to 800 mill rainfalls is a really happy place for chicory. Remember, my quote was for the dairy industry is that most of those landscapes that dryland dairy has gone to can be summer dry, but their annual rainfall was regularly over a thousand mill in total. So you can see the sheep and beef industry has a footprint over the same rainfall zones, but it also extends way into quite a broad types of soils and rainfall zones that actually chicory has quite a strong place, basically in just general pasture.
Glenn So apart from putting it in with their general pasture mixes, specifically, if we were looking for situations where we've got higher proportions of chicory, maybe that's with the red clover or other clovers as we're using almost in the cropping phase. How would we use that in those farming systems?
Allister Well, the key really is once you start systemising, working out in your farming program, what are the multipliers as far as what you can, you know, really impact your income? And if you are looking at the world of high health, finishing or finishing off the mother, once the animal the young animals weaned. You tend to find the history of the live weight gain, the animal performance, the micro nutrient cycling, all of that history has been done on summer live weight gain work throughout the history of domesticating chicory in New Zealand forage systems. So plenty of literature about summer live weight gain. So you tend to find it's used the most in the summer live weight gain on finishing animals systems. But because it's sheep and beef and because our average rainfalls are quite a lot lower in the majority of those systems, we are also looking for perennialtiy. And when I say perenniality, it's not lasting ten years. We are talking about lasting more than one year. And so we're going through at least one winter and at least two summers. We are seeing and depending on your landscape, it's very, very hard to get chicory through a second winter and into a third summer. The species does not have a lot of wriggle room with trooper analogy and it can seed, but if it does seed you left it to get to a really quite a messy state with these wooden seed heads still being there by the time the seed is viable. So it can get quite messy if you try to get natural reseeding.
Glenn Yeah, and I think you've highlighted the use of chicory as a crop with or without clover and other species is really driving for that finishing system. We're trying to finish cattle, we're trying to finish our lambs. We've got weaner deer on that and we're trying to finish those. It lends itself to this increased animal performance. And I guess if you want to strip that back a little bit and go well what does that do that ryegrass for example doesn't do. I think there's a couple of critical points.
Allister That's a couple of questions I'd ask you, you know, like tell me about the nutritional profile and you know, like everything from the way animals are grazing it to how it breaks down to, you know, literally the micronutrient traits of chicory.
Glenn I'm glad you asked. So I think it's one of those plants that lends itself to be easily harvested and for high intake. And when you think about grass, and I think we've said this on other podcasts, but if you think about grass, perennial ryegrass for example, is one of the more difficult things to graze, particularly at lower covers. And that's because we've got very fine leaves. A lot of the dry matter of the whole plant is in the base.
Allister Glenn, just quickly, how many bites in a day to get a diet for sheep out of a grass pasture.
Glenn We're into the 20,000 bites.
Allister But average about 12,000?
Glenn Yeah, we can if we make it really hard. I think the upper limit is, is just a shade under 30,000 bites for a day. These grass pastures we can make them incredibly hard because we're pushing them into fine leaves where most of the drymatter is at the base you see things like chicory’s and plantains and brassicas, even clovers. The way they're structured, they lend themselves for those animals to harvest far more in every bite and in therefore, what we get is a much higher intake when we make it easy. Chicory, as you've already suggested is a leaf, which is a full leaf, much larger than a ryegrass tiller, if you like, and therefore in one or two bites, the amount of dry matter going down a sheep's throat or cattle or deer is so much larger and so they are able to graze more in a day relative to a ryegrass and much faster. So that's the ease of harvesting. The other thing that these particularly dicots like plantain is actually another really good example. Clover is also is because the way those plants are actually put together, if you like, when they get into the animal stomach, the breakdown speed and to the particle size which is allowed to exit the rumen is so much faster. So we'll just give you some kind of some general metrics around that. If you're a perennial ryegrass, it's going to take about 6 hours for half of what you eat to break down in the rumen to then pass out of that.
Allister So it gets to a small enough particle size in the rumen to actually move.
Glenn For a sheep, it's got to get to a particle size, which is a bit like the kitchen sieve. So if your material hasn't broken down to that size, you're going to still be in the and likely the animal regurgitates it and rechews. So if you think about that breakdown speed is actually quite slow for ryegrass. For things like chicory that speed is incredibly quick. Two and a half hours means half of the stuff that you've just eaten is down to that particle side and has moved out of the rumen. And what that means is the animals will return to grazing so much sooner. There's some really good work out of Massy University on dear actually that show that the amount of time animals spent ruminating that's regurgitating what they've already chewed and rechewing is so much less in chicory crops because by the time they sit down and go, Oh, I might regurgitate a bit to rechew, it's actually gone. So ruminating times are so much less and animals return to grazing so much sooner. And so a large chunk of why animals do very, very well on these crops is they actually eat more in the day and because of that processing speed is much faster. So that's a really important point. The other thing is with these herbs, they tend to have low structural fibre. That is true until they go to seed and therefore digestibility of that material, the stuff that is not going to make it all the way through the animal and come out in faecal material is a little higher. So on all of those fronts we get increased intake, it's processed faster animals use more of it means that we get these higher rates of animal performance when we put those in.
Allister That's that description I gave you regarding the dairy usage is that, you know, like just before milking in a hot day very hard to stimulate more intake under those weather conditions so fits perfectly.
Glenn I think the other thing that chicory does bring is we do know it has a high ash content, which means that it does accumulate things like copper and selenium, B12 and those types of things. So again, it's a much better bridge of passing trace elements that might be in your soil onto the animal. And I think it's also we don't always get live weight gain responses to supplementing with trace elements. But where we are deficient and we are using multiple strategies of improving the trace elements status of growing animals, for example, using that in fertiliser and using the herbs as a bridge between the two is certainly part of a trace element.
Allister If I was thinking in parts per million and comparing to pasture under an equivalent soil environment, I think it's about 60 to 70% carries something like copper at 60 to 70% that of what the grass species in the same landscape would.
Glenn Yeah, certainly grass is not great at passing on. Probably not as bad as brassicas but certainly not nearly as good as the herbs plantains and chicory’s is a much, much better bridge for passing that.
Allister And so I do sometimes think, you know, it's not to be confused with the soil, the rooting depth can be a bit of a distraction about the true microbial interaction or the soil interface. I think with the soil depth that the taproot of chicory is one of the big roots you can put into the ground. Lucerne is another, maybe a raddish, for example, they punch big roots into the ground. I think there's definitely an element of soil moisture harvesting associated with chicory, but I still believe the majority of the magic occurs in quite a shallow profile when it comes to chicory. It's just got better relationships with the top 20 centimetrs as far as bringing micronutrients in, the depth of the root is more about moisture which will bring out the nutrients but absolutely theres less down there.
Glenn Yeah. And just because they've got access to a larger pool of soil, I agree with you. I think that the magic happens in the top where it's able to take up more of those more efficiently.
Glenn Differently and that relationship with the soil I think is clearly better. So the other couple of things that chicory brings to a system not only from a performance point of view but related to that is we certainly know from an internal parasite perspective that having chicory in your sward or having chicory crops means it's much more difficult for infective larvae, L3 larvae from our major internal parasites for those larvae to get in the zone to be consumed in so they don't hold water nearly the same. Larvae do not like climbing up and down these things therefore the challenge to animals grazing is so much less.
Allister So what you're saying is that the larvae can be deposited within the stem, but it's how the structure of the chicory plant isn't necessarily of the larvae getting into the grazing zone.
Glenn The two plants that larvae just love to climb up and hang on. One of them is perennial ryegrass, the other is browntop and they hold moisture. You know, the hatching rates of those eggs are much higher. And therefore, the challenge to the animals much higher. We can certainly break some of that cycle down by having herbs like chicory and plantain in the sward and for no other reason necessarily, apart from the fact that their architecture means that those infective larvae are not nearly as high concentration in the grazing zone. So that's really useful. The other thing that were just starting to understand is that some of the the polyunsaturated fatty acids that are in the plant and the speed at which they move through the rumen does actually provide some benefit to the animal in terms of they can certainly utilise those. And there are some programs that are already commercial where, you know, we've got meat, for example, that is being produced off largely chicory diets and that meat has quite a different characteristic in terms of having more polyunsaturated fatty acids in the meat and the way that cooks and the consumer acceptance is different to some of the other meats.
Allister Yeah, that's been an awesome journey and that particular system is actually really worthy of a future podcast actually. And I think that's something we will have on our cards for 2024 actually, is to dive a bit deeper into the history of what's going on in that space.
Glenn Yeah, I think it's a really interesting and fascinating journey. It's one of those ones where we weren't quite looking at that. We were looking for some other things and discovered that there were some very powerful effects going on in things like chicory. So the other kind of reasons that you would use chicory outside of dairy, very much focussed on animal performance, on reducing faecal egg counts or the challenge to animals grazing those and some changes in meat and we can describe those later. I guess the next question really is around in terms of grazing management and let's just come out of dairy and focus in our sheep and beef and deer systems we were using that for finishing. You've mentioned that, you know, our first grazing we need to get to that six to seven true leaf before we get into that.
Allister Seven not six.
Glenn Seven quite specific in that.
Allister More 7 to 8.
It's not 6 to 7, it's 7 to 8.
Glenn So we are wanting this crop to actually move on quite a bit before we get into a first grazing?
Allister Absolutely different animals are more capable of ripping things out of the ground and sheep can be quite aggressive as well in that space.
Glenn So then what would you be comfortable in terms of a grazing rotation length? Probably at a very high level. You know, are we wanting them longer or shorter and then kind of give us a feel for in a New Zealand system what that would look like.
Allister Well, the New Zealand systems are always sort of divvied up between first year crops and second and third year crops. I do think they're quite distinctly different. So we've described the dairy system already, but the sheep and beef and deer system relates to it and the opportunity that comes from it should be seen as the same. A timely establishment in the spring is really attractive. You can establish a crop in the autumn. However, you've got to remember one thing is that once you go through winter, all your plants have been vernalised and therefore their very next growth phases to go reproductive. By sowing in the spring you get the whole summer and the following autumn of predominantly leaf production because they haven't gone through a winter. So therefore a young chicory stand is without doubt its own recipe for the first season. And it's got a huge number of advantages because it's young, it's healthy, it can be relatively intensely managed and it pretty much forms the same criteria as we discussed for the dairy earlier. You know, you're starting at seven, eight true leaves. You're looking at a start of 18 to 22 to 24 centimetres again 2400 kg's on the first round. Then you probably due to the landscape you're in because you might not be in the growthest environments like some of the dairy landscapes. You're probably looking at more like a 25 to 28 day rotation, looking at 2800 to 3000 kilograms of dry matter on offer. But you are starting to consider grazing down and watching your grazing residual a little bit more carefully, targeting that sort of five centimetres. I think it's about the middle knuckle on your middle finger as a really nice general visual for indentifying how much residual to leave behind because with sheep it's so easy to graze to a very, very low residuals. Now the key is the longer you do that for, the more you start to damage the crowns of these plants and start to lose more plants. So the biggest mission in sheep and beef systems is to maintain population density for as long as possible and not challenge it. So one of the first challenges is getting through your first season is relatively straightforward because that's the glory phase. There's no receding, the crowns of these plants are quite low into the ground, so there's an element of resilience there. You're just trying to maximise your growth. But as you take these crops into their first winter, you do have to be quite careful because any excessive growth you've got in the cold season, the ability to graze in winter without damaging your valuable second year crop is quite a big deal. So technically you'd graze in periods where the soil was not really saturated. You tend to graze with lighter stock classes, you tend to try and get across these areas with relatively small covers on them as fast as you can and minimise damage in the wet or cool season. And then as you hit early spring, particularly the first and second month of spring, you are looking to slowly build up your stocking pressure on it. So again, having a stock class that you can keep elevating the pressure is really attractive because by about the first or second week of the middle of spring you are going to see reproductive development and it's at this time you want to be right on top of it. So Glenn, earlier you mentioned the development of these tall, long stems and how hollow they are. Well, this is exactly right. As they develop, they become more and more tubular, more hollow in the middle. And as you take the tops off that you leave this stick with a hollow tube basically right to the top of the taproot. And if you get natural rainfall that fills that up, you have water sitting on top of the taproot. And that's a really good system for actually seeing a rotting of the top of the plant. The other thing is as those stems lignify and become more like wood every time a cattle beast or an animal breaks it, that's a damage event to the top of the chicory plant. And again, if you're in a humid environment where the soil is wet, naturally secondary plant diseases can kick in. You've got a damage event, you get a secondary plant, soft rot come in, for example, it's called seraphina comes on and it'll just rot out that whole system. With chicory some of those plants can actually hold on for about a month to two months after they've been damaged. They are plants that are going to die. Some of them look like they've had phenoxy chemical damage. They get contorted and twisted leaves. But what's actually happening is they've got a root disease that's impacting the vascular system and they're just taking 2 to 3 months to die. So if you've had wet winter grazing, you don't normally see the plant collapse until the second half of spring or the start of summer, and then suddenly you, your sward, your crop will be quite a lot more open. So wet winter grazing is actually a big deal in the second season and stem and seedhead management.
Glenn The other challenge that I see and we see this a lot as we've elevated the amount going through and to finishing lambs is certainly again in those wet environments, this plant can actually be quite low in dry matter.
Allister Yeah, correct.
Glenn So when we've got animals grazing through this. It's not unheard of to see dry matters below 10%.
Allister In fact 8% is quite common.
Glenn And so what that means is at that point, animals physically can't harvest with you know we've talked about those harvest dynamics that it is an easy plant to eat but they've got to eat so much in fresh weight just to get.
Allister They're eating close to 92% water.
Glenn Exactly. And so that can be quite problematic when you've got animals that are really wanting to grow. But the intake of dry matter of energy is being hampered by the fact that it's very, very wet feed and they're dealing with a huge amount of of water.
Allister I always get to this point. It's not my sphere its your sphere, but I get to this point because I deal with it as well in the sense that our plants aren't meeting people's expectations. But one thing I've always seen where these periods of low live weight gain. Actually multiple factors that are kicking in here and obviously dry matter you've highlighted. But nearly always this is associated with long periods of overcast weather. You know, you've had potentially rainfall events, but you've had long periods of overcast weather. So you tend to get three things impacting all at once. One you're getting lower and lower drymatter percentages but higher and higher water content. As soon as you do have these very, very low, dry matter percentages, you've got low natural structural fibre. So you got high water, low fibre, and because you don't have sunshine, you tend to find you're still absorbing nitrogen, but you're not necessarily converting it to extra growth because the sun's not driving it. So you've actually got elevating crude proteins too. So you've got this sort of trifecta of things that are impacting animal performance as well as the animal itself is not getting a lot of sunshine. So you've got these three big mechanisms, lots and lots of water, very, very little fibre and actually elevating protein levels.
Glenn Yeah, and I think that's the other point is the other challenges that this plant is well can be quite problematic from a nitrate poisoning point of view, particularly under the situations that you describe. And one of the things that we have played around with is in these situations, can mowing in wilting prior to grazing be a solution to this. And what we've largely found is the answer's no. And it's a little bit counterintuitive, but it would appear that if you could wilt and get the water out of this, that you would solve some of those problems. But typically, from a practical point of view, you're trying to do that environment, what you've just described as wet, overcast. And actually there's not a lot of evaporation happening at that point. So what you end up doing is you end up cutting this and it ends up rotting rather than wilting. And so we haven't really found a good way of doing this. What you've actually got to do is hurry up and wait for the sun to come out.
Allister Exactly. And as you describe the whole concept of wilting, if you're in an environment that can create a wilt, you probably don't have the problem.
Glenn No, that's right. So just talk a little bit about the types of chicory, maybe mention a couple of the Agricom cultivars, but there are a couple of different types in and you might like to flesh that out.
Allister Oh, look, we work with a variety called Choice, which is one of the largest chicory in New Zealand, and the key is that second generation from the variety I mentioned at the start, which is Puna. So, you know, very, very proud to be part of a seed business that has had a strong heritage to the development of both of the herbaceous species that are used in general pasture in the world actually being chicory and plantain. We literally have helped develop these in world agriculture. So it's a it's a pretty cool place to be. But choice is very much a significant chicory in the New Zealand landscape. And as I described to you, it's the second generation out of the Puna original chicory source. So what we're looking at it is a plant like that is a very, very natural biennial. If you go into some quite semi-arid parts of our country with good free draining soil this plant can survive for many years in those conditions. But like I say, it gets more and more difficult to see true perenniality in high rainfall environments with big animals grazing on wet soils. So we have got resilience and we have got persistence tied up in this variety, but it's not it's defining feature. There's also a group of styles that are not quite as perennial in trait. But as I say, you know, we're talking about a dairy system that has a more defined window of time. But if you took one of those and tried to get it to last 2 to 3 years, they would have a much bigger collapse phase in the second spring. So there's quite two distinct styles that are set out there. As we see at the moment, you tend to find that style is a little bit more autumn active as well and a little bit more winter active, which is actually conflicting as well because the last thing you want is too much winter activity because then you're forced to make a decision on do I use it in wet conditions so that's another scenario. But Choice it's a pretty good choice for most people, I would suggest.
Glenn I see what you did there Al. Can you give me a give me a minute summary on chicory the plant, how it's used and the key attributes.
Allister Chicory is a such an important species that has been commercialised in New Zealand and in our really unique landscape, which is the temperate grazing environment. It has always been in the system and the things that we've valued most about it. It is this extremely highly nutritious herbal species that just fits so, so well into summer production systems. It's got a taproot that gives it the opportunity to hold on in the dry and really produce over time. Where the biggest systemisation of it has occurred as as a key protein source in the dairy sector in summer dry dairy environments now. Summer dry environments have become less and less reliable as summers have got longer and longer. And chicory is an absolute winner when it comes to the length of dry you may be facing. So if it's only five weeks, turnips are very, very functional in that space. But at five weeks, turnips are very, very nearly finished on farm. You cannot actually take them that much longer successfully and chicory can just get better and better through the second half of summer and into autumn. So it's a really strategic and flexible summer feed for, you know, an environment where you are looking for that really highly nutritious protein and elevated intake in those summer months. I think the key message from a getting it going perspective do your feed budgets, identify how much you need. You don't necessarily want to put any more than you need. It's very important because it doesn't necessarily grow all year round, which means you don't want to overcommit to it. So you just want to get what you need to achieve your primary tasks. The most important point of being efficient is to get it established in the ideal window, with all due respect to the stresses people face in spring between mating, being concerned about not having a surplus, all these things, nothing is actually more important at that moment than getting your timing right for establishment, because if you go too late, you may be going into drought conditions and have actual failures which are vastly more costly to your farm business than giving up two weeks of grass in the middle of spring. So timeliness is one of the most important secrets to getting summer cropping, but particularly chicory cropping going get it in the right time. This will give you your best window for establishment and you'll be speed to first grazing and the sooner you get to your first grazing, the sooner you can get your regrowths in and the more regrowth cycles you get defines how much you produce in your given timeframe. So sowing conditions and sowing timeframe, 12 degrees and rising right in the middle of that sweet spot for establishment, not too close to the dry and to get your first grazing as soon as possible into the summer months, they would probably be my big take homes with dairy. It makes up 20% of the diet through the summer months, with most of that lamb finishing and cattle finishing, anywhere over 80% of the diet can be achieved and I think they would be the biggest. I would say I'd do one, it's not a downer, but just a self-awareness. There are very few chemical options as far as weed control. In some environments you might have to do a little pre-work to deserve the right to utilise chicory in its full glory, and that might be using annual ryegrass or Italian ryegrass as a lead in crop. So you can control thistles before you bring chicory into your landscape. It's pretty depressing when you put chicory in your landscape and you get a wall to wall thistle environment because there is no chemicals that you can use to take those weeds out of chicory, it is the same species as many of those weeds. So there are chemicals, but they are all early establishment and quite weak in the range that they target. So be aware of your history in your properties. I feel that probably sums it up really nicely, but it's a highly nutritious plant ideal for summer cropping, ideal for creating diversity in pastures. It does not live forever, but when it's there, it really delivers at a very high level.
Glenn Oh well, we'll leave it there Al. So I've got to go and see my mum. Do you know what? Someone stole all the grass from around her house. She wasn't very happy. So when I got there, she was just looking forlorn.
Allister Oh, oh, oh. I think on that one we must finish. Or we will be chased off.
Glenn See ya Al.
Allister Thanks Juddy. Bye