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I have been reading very conflicting information about the risks of tall fescue hay and the fungal organism which has been associated with several different health issues in livestock. I live in a clayish band of soil 30 miles west of Effingham, IL where the primary naturalized grass is tall fescue - Sheep & Goats [Skip to Content]
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QUESTION
I have been reading very conflicting information about the risks of tall fescue hay and the fungal organism which has been associated with several different health issues in livestock. I live in a clayish band of soil 30 miles west of Effingham, IL where the primary naturalized grass is tall fescue. I planted 26 acres in orchard grass in 2001 which has been difficult to assess due to the the drought last summer. But, I have not liked that it goes grown early in the fall and become dormant early. The naturally occuring Tall Fescue around here seems to remain green well into early winter.

Because our soil is not the highest quality and tall fescue seems to be the predominant grass species here, I feel that for pasture and hay, planting tall fescue (with a legume) may be the best option for a 14 acre field I'd like to put into grass this year (preferable, now, in February - broadcasted on the surface for spring germination).

We have about 120 Katadin / Dorper / Barbado sheep that do not seem to have been ill affected by the natural tall fescue that was already on a 5 acre stand when we moved here in 2001. We did not hay it, just allowed the ewes to graze it at various times of the year and at different times during their gestation. We just lambed a second time here without issues.

So, should I be concerned about the Tall Fescue fungal issue if I intend to hay the 14 acres? If I put in the Tall Fescue, which legume do you recommend?

Thanks.


ANSWER

This response is from Dean Oswald, Animal Systems Educator from the Macomb Center. Tall Fescue diluted with legume (Alfalfa and Red Clover) and grazed in a vegative state of growth should cause little probelm with fescue endophyte fungus. Most of the fescue endophyte is in the upper part of the more mature plant or seed head. When grazing or harvesting for hay cut in the boot stage before seed head development. Dilution works fairly well with sheep and cattle but not horses. Stockpiling tall fescue after Aug 1 for fall/winter grazing is the best use of fescue. Several newer varities of tall fescue are available...some have no or low endophyte and others have novel or friendly endophyte like Max Q. Those without endophyte are not as vigorous as the old K31 varities. MAx Q seems to be vigorous and productive but more expensive. Alfalfa is the most productive forage legume in Illinois for hay. Red Clover could be used but is a biennial that needs to be re-seeded, takes longer to dry down and can be dustier in hay than Alfalfa.







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