Submitted to: Symposium Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: February 10, 2006
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Meadow fescue (Festuca pratensis Huds.) has excellent potential for grazing-based dairy and beef systems in Wisconsin, but producer awareness of this temperate grass is lacking. Previous research established that its intake potential is comparable or superior to other pasture grasses, and winter-hardy, disease-resistant varieties have been released. An assessment of its growth potential is needed as a basis for recommending it to producers. Studies were conducted in southwestern and northcentral Wisconsin to determine the response of meadow fescue to grazing, hay management, and nitrogen fertilization. Orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L., 'Bronc'), soft-leaf tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb., 'Barolex'), and meadow fescue ('Bartura', 'Hidden Valley' and a germplasm population) were compared under intensive rotational grazing (16 to 28 days), frequent and infrequent harvest (17 vs. 35 day interval) at two heights (2 and 4 inches), and five nitrogen fertilization rates (0, 60, 120, 180, and 240 lb N/acre). Under grazing and hay management, meadow fescue provided greater annual yield, with the greatest advantage occurring in the spring and early summer. Digestibility of meadow fescue was greater than or equal to the other grasses throughout the growing season. Unlike orchardgrass and soft-leaf tall fescue, meadow fescue was less responsive to N fertilization rates above 180 lb/acre. The results indicate that pasture-based producers in Wisconsin should consider meadow fescue as a favorable alternative to orchardgrass and soft-leaf tall fescue.