Submitted to: Proceedings of Forage and Grassland Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/25/2007
Publication Date: 10/25/2007
Citation: Looper, M.L. Filling the forage gaps with novel endophyte-infected tall fescue. Proceedings of Forage and Grassland Conference.
Interpretive Summary: Beef producers need alternatives to feeding harvested forages and/or purchased feedstuffs to fill the spring and fall forage gaps. Feed supplementation can represent over half the cost of producing cattle with costs/cow ranging from $1 to $1.50/day. Scientists at USDA-ARS in Booneville, AR summarized research data that suggests novel endophyte-infected tall fescue (NE-TF) may be used during these forage gaps to reduce costs. An increased understanding of animal responses to NE-TF forages will be the basis of new and/or improved best management practices for cost-effective beef production in Arkansas and throughout the fescue belt. This information is important to extension personnel, animal scientists, and beef producers.
Technical Abstract: Arkansas beef producers rely on both warm season (bermudagrass) as well as cool season (usually endophyte-infected tall fescue) perennial forages to achieve as close to a 12-month grazing season as possible. Even with this combined warm-cool season forage system, “forage gaps” still exist at certain times of the year, usually during October to December and then again during April and May. A “forage gap” is usually defined as that time of year when grasses do not produce enough quality forage to maintain or increase body weight and condition of cattle. The fall forage gap is generally the period after fall weaning to the emergence of winter annuals (i.e., ryegrass, rye, and/or wheat) in December to January. The time prior to bermudagrass breaking dormancy and rapid growth of endophyte-infected tall fescue would be considered the spring forage gap. Cattle grazing EI-TF during the spring forage gap can exhibit a stressful multifaceted disease syndrome called fescue toxicosis. Forage gaps represent a reduction of farm profitability because costly feed supplements are needed to maintain cattle. Winter feed supplementation can represent over half the cost of producing cattle with costs/cow ranging from $1 to $1.50/day. Nutrients supplied by pasture forages are the cheapest source of beef cattle nutrition. Extending the grazing season with novel endophyte-infected tall fescue during these gaps may be one of the most effective ways to reduce costs.