Although it’s good forage, fescue grass has to be managed well, according to veterinarian Dr. Buzz Iliff, who says that if fescue is not mowed and is allowed to head out in the summer, ergot or another harmful fungus can form, severely affecting cattle that eat it.
“It raises their body temperature anywhere from two to five degrees, so they just stay hot all the time, they will not shed their winter coat, and in extreme conditions, what the toxin does, it affects the capillaries in the extremities of the animal,” Iliff told Brownfield Ag News.
In the worst cases, when they have little else to eat except the bad fescue, cattle lose tail switches or hoof claws. But cattle bred between 30 and 90 days can also abort from eating moldy fescue.
Cattlemen considering feeding green-chopped corn should have it tested to determine if drought stress has caused higher levels of nitrates.
“The amount of nitrates in the plant is going to determine how high you chop it and whether you can feed it as green-chop or not, but the quicker you can make a decision to go to an alternative feed source, probably the better,” said Iliff, “you know we hate to feed up all our winter hay crop.”
Depending on the area, Iliff says there should be plenty of other acceptable and economical feed choices ranging from distillers grains to soybean hulls.