Chicory is a perennial herb, which has proven to be an excellent source of high quality feed for finishing stock. Experience with Commander Chicory has demonstrated that it has potential for high levels of animal production over spring and summer. Chicory can be sown as part of a grass ley, but it is most easily managed when sown in strips or blocks, with or without clover.
Chicory is a high protein forage, giving protein contents of between 10% and 32% depending on the plants maturity, with the digestibility of the leaves between 90% and 95%, but if the plant is allowed bolt, the flower stems are considerably less digestible. Chicory forage is also a good source of minerals, being rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulphur, zinc, and sodium. Research by SAC and DARD has found that ‘Chicory could be considered a useful alternative to drenching with anthelmintic as it improves lamb performance’. It is also a deep rooted herb, with excellent tolerance of drought.
Chicory can be broadcast or drilled into a firm, fine ‘grass’ seedbed at a depth of 1cm. Sow pure stands at 5kg/ha and as part of a grass mixtures at 1.25kg/ha.
Chicory can also be sown very successfully in a mixture with a large leaf white clover like Alice at 5kg/ha chicory plus 5kg/ha Alice to produce a long term grazing strip. Alternatively it can be sown as a mixture with Lemmon red clover, to produce a versatile, very high yielding, grazing and cutting crop, which is ideal for finishing lambs. Replicated AFBI trials, shows that this mixture will produce twice the forage yield of pure chicory.
Chicory is not a legume, and cannot ‘fix’ nitrogen, therefore either sow with clover or apply 40kg/ha N at sowing followed by 45kg/ha N at start of spring growth and after grazing. Ensure sufficient soil P & K and a pH above 5.5
Correct grazing management is essential to maximise the persistence and forage quality of chicory.
Start grazing when its 25-30cm tall and stock at a rate to take the crop quickly down to 5cm, a back fence should be used so that re-growth will not be grazed and the stand weakened. After the seeding year chicory will grow vigorously and attempt to produce flowering stems in early summer, stubble heights of longer than 5cm or rest periods longer than 25 days can allow stems to bolt. Once the stems have bolted, quality is lost and the production of the plants is reduced for the remainder of the grazing season
Grazing during winter should be light to avoid damaging the plant’s crown.
Studies in New Zealand have shown live weight gain of 0.25kg/day for lambs and 0.9kg/day for Friesian bulls.
Barenbrug trials with AFBI in Northern Ireland where Commander is rotationally grazed by organic lambs has given similar results.