Choice chicory is an excellent option as a summer crop to supplement milking cows when ryegrass growth rates are low and quality is poor. Choice is New Zealand-bred and proven as a fast-establishing, high-yielding, six-eight-month summer crop.

Planting date is key to get the most out of Choice chicory. Planting can start once soil temperatures reach 12C and rising, when soil is in good condition for planting. Trials in Waikato have shown planting on October 16 resulted in an extra grazing and stronger establishment compared with sowing on November 16. This means starting to graze by mid-December, when ryegrass quality is starting to drop due to seedhead production, which can therefore increase milk production.

Chicory should be sown into a firm, weed-free seedbed, no deeper than 5-10mm. Planting with DAP will dramatically help with speed of establishment. Controlling weeds early while they are small is also a crucial step to ensure good control and best success from the crop.

Choice takes about eight weeks to establish. It will be ready for its first graze at 20cm height once it has at least seven true leaves, with the target being 3000kg drymatter (DM)/ha, with post-grazing residuals at 5cm. Once the first grazing has been achieved, Choice should be on a 21-day rotation throughout the summer and autumn. Many farmers use the strategy of feeding chicory for two or three hours before afternoon milking, a great way to increase intakes in the heat of the afternoon.

To control chicory in the autumn before regrassing, spray the crop with glyphosate at 25cm cover, graze three days later, then immediately direct drill in perennial ryegrass. This will give the best result, ensuring the chicory doesn’t outcompete the new grass.