Fescue updates presented at NRV cattle gathering

AFP Correspondent

BLACKSBURG, Va. (March 31, 2015) — It is not long when livestock producers get together until the conversation turns to fescue, a grass folks either love or hate but always want to discuss.
At the New River Valley Cattle Producers Association Pasture Management Meeting on March 17, a lot was said about fescue. It was on the agenda for two speakers.
Dr. Mark McCann, Virginia Tech professor of ruminant nutrition and Extension beef specialist, Dr. Michael Flessner, associate professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology and Weed Science, and Morgan Paulette, the new Pulaski County, Va. Extension agent, discussed fescue in the meeting Paulette organized as one of his first events since coming on board with Virginia Cooperative Extension in January.
Part of the problem in managing fescue, especially Kentucky 31, is that there is no way to compare having it or not having it, McCann told about 40 producers and Extension personnel attending the meeting.
“You really don’t know how you live with it,” he said.
He said the research has not been done that would help researchers and farmers better understand this grass that can be toxic to cattle because it is endophyte infected.
He noted that not all endophyte-infected fescue has the same level of toxicity.
Some seed companies are working on developing endophyte fescue that does not have the toxicity of Kentucky 31, the fescue that is predominant in most Virginia pastures.
He recommended planting one of the newer types of fescues rather than Kentucky 31.
“Most of us don’t have a lot of experience in planting fescue, he said. “We inherited it.”
He said management is important in planting new fescue and maintaining the stand while it matures.
Diluting it with other grasses and legumes can help.
“We adjust and we deal with it,” McCann stated.
He revealed Tech will be doing some research in pastures near the campus as the big switch takes place with the dairy herd being moved to Kentland Farm and the beef cattle there being brought to the Blacksburg fields.
This is expected to occur in April or May when the new dairy barns at Kentland are finished.
Paulette said he has been studying research that is being done at the Shenandoah Valley Research and Extension Station (SVAREC) to learn about how much of the pasture there- is infected with endophyte infected fescue.
It has been found that there has been a big increase in this infection, he reported.
He is looking forward to working with the researchers there and hopes to do some similar work in Pulaski County.
Paulette used the meeting as an opportunity to introduce himself to the producers and find out what their needs are so he can begin to meet them.
The young man actually grew up on Kentland Farm where his father, Dwight Paulette, is farm manager.
He said he is looking forward to working in the NRV.
“How can I help you?” he asked his audience. What are your greatest challenges? I work for you.”
He noted the meeting was one way for him and the producers to begin building a relationship.