A first-time crop of chicory grew so well for a Bay of Plenty dairy farming family last year they're now preparing to sow it again this season to help keep their cows milking well through summer.

Previously the Forlongs at Upper Atiamuri have supplemented their high-producing Jersey herd with home-grown grass or lucerne silage as required in summer.

But with all cows wintered at home they wanted to change this, keeping the silage in reserve for colder months and milking off an alternative high quality forage instead.

That's where 10ha of 501 Chicory came in, sown late October 2017, and grazed through to mid April 2018.

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Yielding an estimated 10.7 tonnes DM/ha, it was judged the best crop of 501 Chicory sown in the Bay of Plenty and Waikato for the 2017/18 season, and won the Forlongs a 25kg bag of Governor AR37 perennial ryegrass seed for their autumn pasture renewal.

Governor AR37 is the newest perennial ryegrass from Barenbrug Agriseeds, the company which markets 501 Chicory.

The grass seed was a nice bonus, but the real prize was having tonnes of high protein, high ME, low-fat chicory for their cows during summer, the Forlongs say.

Maurice and Karen Forlong farm the 135ha dairy platform, plus 23ha of support land, with son Grant. It's rolling to steep country which they bought in 1995.

Total production last season from 400 spring-calving cows was 175,000kg milksolids, and the farm is run as a System 4. Maize silage is bought in, and the cows are supplemented in-shed during lactation with about 3kg/head/day of a mixed ration of palm kernel, tapioca, canola and dried distillers grain, depending on the season.

Maurice Forlong says they decided to use 501 Chicory last year on the advice of their rural merchant rep and Barenbrug Agriseeds local area manager Paul Hames.

"Two or three other farmers we know have grown it over the past couple of years, and they've been pretty happy with their results, too, so we were keen to try it for ourselves."

Following best practice for sowing, establishment and grazing, they had no issues with the crop and were very impressed with the outcome.

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"It was marvellous, much better than we expected to be honest," Maurice says.

Happy not to mess with success, they will repeat the process this spring.