Strategically Managing Tall Fescue

Tall fescue is the most important cool-season grass in Kentucky.  In most unimproved pastures, tall fescue is infected with a fungal endophyte that imparts tolerance to grazing and environmental stresses.  The endophyte improves persistence in low input grazing systems, but it also results in the production of alkaloids that cause tall fescue toxicosis.  Worse case symptoms include: fescue foot, fat necrosis, and loss of ear tips and tall switches.  However, the symptoms that are not readily observed are often the costliest.  These include vasoconstriction, elevated body temperature, lower forage intake, lower milk production, lower growth rates and weaning weights, compromised immune system, and lower conception/calving rates. Strategically manage tall fescue by:

  • Replacing of Toxic Stands
  • Managing Existing Tall Fescue Stands
  • Dilution with other forages
  • Clipping seadheads
  • Strategic avoidance
  • Using local animal genetics
  • Supplement tall fescue pastures

While management strategies can mitigate impacts, the only way to completely eliminate the harmful effects of endophyte on livestock is to replace infected stands with other forages or novel endophyte tall fescue. ~ Dr. Chris Teutsch, Cow Country News. DSC_0094