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A case study outlining how Usk Valley Finishers Group was awarded funding through the Farming Connect Farmer Innovation Fund to trial the performance of a plantain and clover mix against other traditional lamb finishing crops grown in Wales.

The Usk Valley Finishers Group was awarded funding through the Farming Connect Farmer Innovation Fund to trial the performance of a plantain and clover mix against other traditional lamb finishing crops grown in Wales. In this case, it was compared to a lamb herbal mix and a ryegrass and clover ley. 

When the trial ended in  November 2014, it showed that plantain produced the greatest volume of forage and the most grazing days – in fact the figures concluded that it was capable of sustaining around 4,200 grazing days compared to 3,000 for the next best performing crop – the herbal mix – and just over 2,500 days for the grass ley. 

The trial crops were planted at Newton Farm, Scethrog, Brecon, where Richard and Helen Roderick run a flock of 1,000 ewes producing lambs for a premium market.

The Rodericks, who had seen plantain grown successfully as a crop for finishing lambs in New Zealand, were joined by six other farming businesses from the Brecon area to investigate the benefits of grazing a plantain and red/white clover mix.  Their aim was to improve production efficiencies through reducing fodder costs and vulnerability to volatile feed markets, achieving shorter finishing times, and achieving significant improvements in overall lamb performance.

The fields were seeded on 16 May 2014. The seed cost for plantain was £48/acre compared to £37/acre for the herbal mix and £67/acre for the grass and clover ley. However, because plantain generated the greatest number of grazing days, it therefore had the lowest seed cost per grazing day.

The fields were stocked at 23 lambs per acre and 20% of each group was weighed at regular intervals to monitor growth rates. At 228g/day, the lambs grazing the grass plot had the highest average liveweight gain, compared to lambs on plantain at 223g/day and 217g/day for the lambs on the herbal mix.

When it came to killing out percentage, the herbal mix performed the best with a figure of 48% compared to 45% for both the plantain and grass. The herbal mix also achieved the best lamb grades – 15% achieved E grades whilst the lambs on plantain and grass were either graded as U or R.

 “The real economic test for the plantain mix will be its longevity. Seed cost is less than grass but the sowing costs are the same and therefore how long it lasts will have a major bearing on its suitability for our farm.” 

said Mr Roderick.

For more information: https://businesswales.gov.wales/farmingconnect/.