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The Cattle Connection

The cattlemen's connection to timely topics, current research, and profitable management strategies
tall fescue

Fescue toxicosis

Posted by Travis Meteer - Grazing

Wet, cool spring conditions have been a hassle for planting corn and soybeans, yet cool season grasses have been thriving under these conditions. Many meadows and pastures have seen significant growth and thus there is adequate forage for cattle on pasture.

Most of the cool season grasses have reached maturity and have put on seed heads. Fescue is a cool-season grass that needs attention as it puts seed heads on. Tall fescue carries a fungal endophyte that is responsible for fescue toxicosis and fescue foot. Ergot alkaloids that cause negative effects in cattle are most concentrated in seed heads. Using rotational grazing systems and clipping pastures are the two most used management practices in Illinois.

Be aware if you fail to manage your tall fescue pastures, pregnancy rates can be reduced to as low as 60% in highly infected animals and average daily gain (ADG) of weaned calves can be reduced to only 1lb/day. With the rapid maturity of cool-season grasses we experienced this year tall fescue has been headed out for a few weeks. A few dry days could be the perfect time to hay pastures or clip them to get rid of those seed heads.

Some of us may be hesitant to clip pastures after a drought year, but if fescue is the dominant grass in your sward then management needs to be applied to reduce the cases of fescue toxicosis.

Fescue toxicosis

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