Tonic plantain produces heavy lambs at Wombelano

Peter Hawkins sowed 100 hectares of Tonic with phalaris and lucerne in spring 2011 at a recently purchased property at Wombelano near Harrow. Lucerne and phalaris are complementary species to Tonic and are also suited to dry growing conditions and consequently perform well in a mix together.

At a glance

 Peter Hawkins sowed 100 hectares of Tonic with phalaris and lucerne in spring 2011
 Tonic plantain is a highly productive pasture herb for lambing ewes and finishing lambs
 Tonic is excellent for growing and finishing lambs
 Strong seedling recruitment of Tonic
 Tonic plantain is complementary to lucerne and phalaris

“The Tonic plantain is easy to establish which created quality feed early for ewes that were at about to lamb,” said Peter. As well as the bulk of feed it produced he said the palatability and feed quality made this a valuable addition to their feed options.

“We decided to draft the ewes on condition with the lighter mob going onto the Tonic. The better conditioned ewes were put on phalaris based pastures across the rest of the farm. At lamb marking the mulesing contractor said that the lambs that were off the Tonic were a lot heavier compared to the better conditioned mobs that were across the phalaris based pastures, which gave us a lot of confidence in Tonic,” commented Peter. This comment supports research into Tonic Plantain that has shown increased liveweight gains as well as regular differences in dag scores from animals grazing Tonic Plantain compared with other pasture options.

“We managed the Tonic to get through the very long dry summer of 2102-13 with light grazings. Once the break occurred in May this year we noticed the Tonic had self-seeded with amazing seedling recruitment. You could see the Tonic seedlings in between the rows which was very encouraging,” said Peter.

Agricom, NZ research agronomist Dr Glenn Judson said the breeding program of Tonic Plantain had focused on the more upright and productive types and the ability in commercial situations to cope with a range of soil types. In pure stands, he said Tonic Plantain had shown to be “great” for lactating ewes where its wide, erect leaves were easily harvested – more easily than ryegrass – and that gave real advantage in increased volumes of feed able to be consumed.

Pasture trials had shown total drymatter production from Tonic Plantain out produced ryegrass, in part because of its ability to continue producing through the depths of winter. “That fits well with farming systems where the Tonic Plantain can provide feed when other pastures have stopped growing. It also responds quickly in the drier months to even modest falls of rain,” Dr Judson said.

Monitoring of faecal egg counts in sheep and lambs grazing Tonic Plantain had showed a consistent picture where worm burdens remained below treatable levels, Dr Judson said, probably due in part to the improved metabolism and hence better health of these animals.
“We are extremely happy with the animal performance of Tonic and are looking to sow another 80 hectares into some more paddocks this spring.” That should provide a good bulk of both winter and summer feed with the added advantage of the Tonic’s health benefits. Farmers who were concerned about hot and dry conditions over summer could look at autumn sowing as a viable alternative.

Tonic plantain from Agricom is available from all quality seed retailers.

 Tonic Phalaris lucerne Wombeleno4

Tara Hawkins, Peter Hawkins and Julian Murray in establishing Tonic plantain, phalaris and lucerne pasture at Wombeleno near Harrow, Victoria.