Saturday, October 06, 2007

So, Does Anyone Know What They Are Talking About?

I mentioned in the post below that we fenced in a new area for our Dexters, but we didn't put them in there yet because we needed a few more fence insulators and because we weren't 100% sure what the grass was in that pasture. The area that we fenced in just recently came out of CRP (Crop Reduction Program) and is almost completely covered with our unknown (to us) grass. Before I left the farm I grabbed a clump and yesterday morning I took it out to the extension office to see if they could identify it.

The believe that it is fescue. I know that horse breeders run as far and as fast as they can from fescue, and I have read information stating that the endophites in tall fescue are toxic and can cause problems with lactating animals, rate of growth, hide condition and other things so I started to do a little research. And, I must say after a little bit of research I am just as confused on the problems or un-problems associated with fescue. One thing I do know for sure is that the endophyte in fescue is what helps it stay growing longer in hot and dry conditions, but that endophyte is also the cause for concern to some people.

The first source I checked out was my book shelf. I remembered there was a small section about tall fescue in "All Flesh Is Grass" by Gene Logsdon. The first sentence of the section reads, "Fescue is a controversial forage plant in grass farming." No kidding! Here are a few other passages from that section that I found especially interesting ... or at least confusing!

"If it is clipped twice to keep it from going to seed and to keep it short and tender, it holds up better than any other cool-season grass for grazing in hot, dry summer, too."

"The livestock never prefer it to bluegrass or ryegrass, but they will eat it unless it gets long and wiry. In winter, they nose down through the snow to eat it. I'm told fescue is rough and tough to the animal's tongue and mouth when it is growing fast in June, but cold weather tenderizes the plant. Clipping must do the same"

"The main management step to avoid endophyte problems is to make sure that your livestock always have access to other grasses and legumes and not just infected fescue exclusively."

After I read that chapter I posted a question on a couple internet forums that I check out from time to time. On the Homesteading Today Forum I started this THREAD asking about people's thoughts on grazing fescue. You can check out the response for yourself, but they were somewhat favorable.

Next I checked out a few other websites after searching for information on grazing tall fescue on Google. Here are a few articles that I came across. They all seem to list some positive and negatives of grazing tall fescue, but I'm not sure if I have come to any conclusion. Of note, the third link below specifically talks about tall fescue in Southern Iowa (the area of our farm).

"Friendly Endophyte-Infected Tall Fescue for Livestock Production. This is a short article from the University of Arkansas.

A Tall Fescue Fact Sheet from the University of Georgia.

And finally, there is a short article from the Iowa State Extension titled, "Clip tall fescue seedhead in early June".

So, there is just a sampling of some of my research. I might remind you that my research has not lead to any sort of understanding yet ... so, I would appreciate any thoughts you have on the subject of tall fescue!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Haha. I like the title of this post. I also love Gene Logsdon's books, remember though, he is a sheep farmer. Little different. Have you read The Pond Lovers? From the looks of your photos those cows are lucky to be on such nice grass. The one photo of the little calf concerns me. The grass looks a bit too high there. I would clip it if it is truly still that high. Seed heads can scratch the eyes. In a normal, non drought year, I like the old adage about grazing between the top of their nostrils and the bottom of their eyes when their heads are down. Ta Ta for now. Clover Bell

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