Forbs in Your Pasture
When you think of plantain and chicory, do you immediately picture the stemmy plants you see along the roadside or in your yard? Not all of these forbs are the same! As Kyle mentioned in our Winter Meetings, “Someone’s life work has been to breed these “weeds” into something that will provide more forage for your livestock.” Prairie Creek Seed uses improved forage varieties of plantain and chicory and here is why your pasture needs them:
Forbs are Deep Rooted
Chicory and plantain are naturally deep rooted, which provides a number of benefits. First, the deep roots can reach deeper levels of moisture in the soil making them more resilient to times of drought in the summer. Greener pasture in the middle of the summer is a good thing! Also, the deeper soil levels that these roots reach allow them to access and pull up nutrients from that deeper level.Those nutrients contribute to the forage quality of forbs by giving them high levels of micronutrients.
Chicory and plantain have been shown to serve as “medicinal” plants to livestock. Some ailments in livestock can lead them to graze more forbs and help mediate the issue in some cases. Forbs can also have deworming properties to reduce parasite counts in livestock.
The palatable and digestible leaves of forbs provide diversity to your forage which, in turn, increases forage quality. Below ground, the forb root systems vary from the grasses and legumes that may already be in your pasture. This benefits the soil biologically and physically. All different roots put out different root exudates that give soil biology diversity in their diet and may bring in new biology to improve your soil. The physical difference in the root provides a new system to hold soil together and improve structure.
An important thing to remember is forbs need adequate rest and recovery time in order to stay established in a stand. If you having a grazign rotation that will work with this, consider adding forbs to your pastures this spring!