Chicory (Cichorium intybus L.) and narrow-leaved plantain (Plantago lanceolata L.) are able to grow a large amount of high-quality summer feed. Limited information is available on the effect of grazing management on plantain, and no comparison been undertaken of modern chicory and plantain cultivars used in dairy production systems. This study determined the effect of defoliation interval (as determined by the extended leaf height, ELH) and residual height on the yield, nutritive characteristics and plant density of chicory and plantain over 18 months. Chicory leaf yield was reduced in swards defoliated at 150 mm ELH compared with those defoliated at 250, 350 or 550 mm (14.3 v. 17.5 t DM ha–1), and chicory stem yield was least in swards defoliated at 150 or 250 mm. Plantain swards defoliated at 350 or 450 mm ELH yielded more leaf than those defoliated at 150 or 250 mm (20.4 v. 16.7 t DM ha–1); however, stem yield also increased with increasing defoliation interval. Over all seasons, as defoliation interval increased, generally, neutral detergent fibre content increased and crude protein, ash and digestibility declined. Residual height had less of an effect on yield and nutritive characteristics than did defoliation interval. To maximise chicory leaf growth while minimising growth of lower quality stem, the optimal ELH over 18 months was 250 mm, or if the chicory was used only as a 9-month ‘summer’ crop, 350 mm. Recommendations for plantain are not as simple because longer defoliation intervals increase both leaf and stem yield and reduce nutritive value. Defoliating plantain swards at 250 mm ELH appeared to provide a balance between yield and nutritive value; however, further work is required to determine the impact of applying these recommendations on a dairy farm system.
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Vol. 66 • No. 2