What was achieved

  • Increased understanding of the production benefits of improved (chicory) versus unimproved pastures.

About the study site

Stockgrove, in the North Canterbury foothills just north of Amberley, is a 300 ha sheep breeding property owned by C. & K. Croft. The farm includes areas of flats, rolling downs and steeper hill country and a maximum altitude of 163 m a.s.l. It is summer dry with 600 mm annual rainfall with evapotranspiration exceeding rainfall from November to March. Pastures range from high quality finishing mixes to conventional perennial ryegrass / white clover with lower quality browntop pastures on the higher country. Typically, the property runs ~2000 ewes, 500 hoggets and 500 trading lambs.

What was trialled

  • Annual and seasonal yield differences between improved and unimproved pastures where measured.
    • Improved pasture mix included chicory, white clover, some plantain and unsown improved grasses (perennial ryegrass and cocksfoot).
    • Unimproved pasture included sweet vernal, browntop, with some perennial ryegrass and white clover.
  • In autumn 2019 pasture exclosure cages were placed at sample sites and sites were monitored for three growth seasons.

Key Findings

  • Improved pastures produced more than three times the dry matter (DM) of unimproved resident pastures annually (14.1 t DM/ha/yr compared with 4.36 t DM/ha/yr).
  • Improved pastures produced more feed than the unimproved pastures in all seasons, and the spring and summer growth rates of these swards were also better.
  • The metabolizable energy (ME) of improved pastures was greater than that of the unimproved pastures in spring.
  • These herb-based pastures remained productive for three years but even when being renewed the establishing pasture grew more than the resident unimproved pasture.
  • The additional feed supply provided by the improved pastures can provide more resilience and flexibility to the farm system.
  • The results gave the farmer confidence to develop more land into improved pastures by being able to quantify and therefore value the extra feed grown.

Keen to know more?

Smith et al. 2022: Total annual and seasonal DM production of improved and unimproved resident pastures at three farms in Canterbury