MOUND VALLEY - Tall fescue makes excellent perennial forage that can be used to fill the forage gap when warm-season grasses go dormant. Tall fescue is well adapted to regions of greater rainfall such as eastern Kansas and Oklahoma as well as states to the east in the transition zone.
Unfortunately, the dominant tall fescue variety (Kentucky 31) commonly grown across the United States comes with one major problem: fescue toxicosis. Livestock grazing toxic tall fescue have lowered animal production through reduced weight gain, poor body condition, lowered reproductive rates and lowered milk production. These problems aren’t caused by the grass itself, instead they are brought about by a fungus (endophyte) which lives inside the grass, that produces ergot alkaloids which are toxic to grazing livestock.
Over the years, producers have tried to dilute the effects of these alkaloids by integrating other forages, monitoring grazing and supplemental feeding as well as trying many other “remedies” with mixed results. A proven method to reduce fescue toxicosis problems is to replace your current tall fescue with a new variety infected with a strain of endophyte called nontoxic or “novel" endophyte that is unable to produce ergot alkaloids or only produces low levels. An example of some of the varieties with a novel endophyte are Jesup MaxQ®, Texoma MaxQ II®, Estancia with ArkShield®, Martin 2Protek® and BarOptima PLUS E34.
If you want to know more about replacing your toxic tall fescue, help is at hand. The Alliance for Grassland Renewal will host a novel tall fescue renovation school from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., March 6 in Mound Valley, Kanas. Novel tall fescue renovation schools offer a great way to find out how you can overcome animal productivity issues that come with grazing toxic tall fescue and learn about the benefits of replacing your pastures with one of the new varieties even if you think you are managing your toxic tall fescue.
The school will cover topics from fescue toxicosis, new pasture establishment, seed quality, seed drill calibration, management, products and incentives. Cost for the school is $60 per person or $110 for couples. Enrollment is limited and must be made by March 1. Walk-ins will pay $15 extra. Registration for the schools and other information can be found at grasslandrenewal.org/education.htm. If you can't make it to this event, there will be similar school the next day at the Southwest Research Center in Mount Vernon, Mo. For more information about the Mound Valley School contact the Southeast Extension and Research Center office at (620) 421 4826 or go to www.wildcatdistrict.ksu.edu.