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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Forage Systems for Minimizing Hay and Concentrate Needs

Author
item AIKEN, GLEN

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: December 8, 2005
Publication Date: January 13, 2006
Citation: Aiken, G.E. 2006. Forage Systems for Minimizing Hay and Concentrate Needs. Meeting Abstract. Pgs 21-23.

Interpretive Summary: The 5.5 million acres of Kentucky-31 tall fescue in Kentucky is a strong indication how producers in the state rely on the cool-season perennial grass, sometimes in mixture with red or white clover, to meet their grazing needs. Stands of endophyte-infected Kentucky-31 tall fescue are persistent and provide forage growth from early spring to late fall, but growth can be very low during the summer and late fall months. Furthermore, dependence on endophyte-infected tall fescue as the sole pasture forage greatly increases vulnerabilities to fescue toxicosis, fescue foot, and fat necrosis, maladies caused by ergot alkaloids contained in endophyte-infected tall fescue. Kentucky producers have an opportunity to maximize the annual distribution of forage by utilizing both high-quality cool-season grasses and productive warm-season grasses to have forage growth for most of the year and cost effectively reduce a need for hay and supplemental feed. Endophyte-infected tall fescue can be stockpiled in the summer and fall growth to provide grazing in the winter when alkaloid concentrations are typically low. Novel endophyte tall fescues can be grazed during the spring and fall to provide non-toxic forage during a time when cattle are most susceptible to the heat stress from toxicosis. Bermudagrass is a warm-season perennial that can be planted in other pastures to provide summer grazing. Stocking rates would have to be reduced but should be offset by the improved consistency of cattle production with a greater growth distribution of quality forage, and a reduction in hay and feed costs.

Technical Abstract: Cattlemen typically simplify their pasture management by relying on one or two forages that are well adapted and persist under their targeted levels of management and production. The 5.5 million acres of Kentucky-31 tall fescue in Kentucky is a strong indication how producers in the state rely on the cool-season perennial grass, sometimes in mixture with red or white clover, to meet their grazing needs. An advantage of this approach is that fertilization and grazing management is based on a single growth distribution and set of fertilizer needs. Disadvantages are that yield, growth distribution, and quality of forage may not meet targeted levels of cattle production, and that hay and costly concentrate supplements will be needed during lengthy periods of dormancy and inactive growth. Furthermore, dependence on endophyte-infected tall fescue as the sole pasture forage greatly increases vulnerabilities to fescue toxicosis, fescue foot, and fat necrosis, maladies caused by ergot alkaloids contained in endophyte-infected tall fescue. Kentucky is located in the transition zone between the temperate north and subtropical southeast, which allows its producers an opportunity to maximize the annual distribution of forage by utilizing both high-quality cool-season grasses and productive warm-season grasses. Producers can plant pastures with different grasses and clovers that vary in their seasonal growth patterns and, therefore, provide forage growth for most of the year and cost effectively reduce a need for hay and supplemental feed. Three examples of forage systems with potential use in Kentucky will be presented and discussed. Considerations when choosing a stocking rate and grazing method also will be discussed.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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