Product Used: Ranger Plantain
Ranger plantain has proven to be the ideal feed base on the dairy property of Toad Heffernan, at Candelo, on the south coast of New South Wales. Mr Heffernan originally planted the crop at a rate of 2 kilograms per hectare some four to five years ago and has been amazed at the production the species has provided over the years. “It is so palatable,” he said. “It is soft and lush.” The Ranger plantain is used as a grazing option and for silage for the dairy cows and the plan is to incorporate it with a number of other pasture species across the property. “It is not that dear to put in and you get a very good result,” Mr Heffernan said. “We will put it in with oats, ryegrass and chicory.” Ranger plantain was in an area with ryegrass and chicory which was left at the end of the season with the intention of ploughing it out. Mr Heffernan said the prolific seed from the plants was evident when they revisited the paddock and a decision was made to let it go into the next season.
The key to the crop is its ability to keep on producing grazing and silage options throughout the year. “We are getting feed off it all the time,” he said. “I’m very impressed with it.” Even in the middle of winter when all the different pasture species were slow, the Ranger plantain was the quickest to produce feed after grazing. Mr Heffernan said it was an interesting decision to start using plantain for silage as he wasn’t sure how suited it would be. In recent seasons plantain-based pastures have been made into round-bale silage with great effect by letting it wilt sufficiently as part of the process. “We have had silage which is ninety percent plantain. It has these big leaves that look life banana leaves and makes beautiful silage. It smells good and it looks good.” He said the crop was on irrigation away from the dairy but within walking access and the cows were able to graze it regularly over the time. The Ranger has been allowed to seed a number of times and the result was a very thick stand that competed well with the other species in the paddock. At one stage it was so thick an application of herbicide was used to reduce numbers to approximately half so a ryegrass option could be drilled into it. He said the cows milked well on the Ranger although the paddock was some distance from the dairy and the cows had to walk to the feed. “I would like to put some in closer to the dairy to prove that it is helping with the milk production.” He said the cows took to the feed readily and found it very palatable at all stages of its growth. The distance to the feed meant sometimes the closer areas were preferred so on more than one occasion the Ranger had to be slashed to stop it setting seed and bulking up even further. In some areas where cattle have transported the seed to an adjacent dryland block, the plantain has seeded well and produced grazing options. “It likes the moisture and warmth and doesn’t take long to grow,” Mr Heffernan said.
Toad Heffernan, of Candelo, NSW