Livestock producers have the chance to eradicate toxic fescue and replace it with non-toxic fescue – several seed companies have the new novel-endophyte fescue available. In Missouri, toxic Kentucky 31 Fescue has had steep financial consequences for producers, says University of Missouri Extension specialist Craig Roberts, “Fescue toxicosis costs our beef producers between $160 Million and $200 Million dollars every year. That’s just beef. Those are not exaggerated numbers. Those aren’t numbers that are decorated with multipliers. They are the REAL numbers.” Roberts says other states, especially through southern Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and the mid-Atlantic states, have also suffered from toxic fescue.
In the past, endophyte-free fescue was used but it couldn’t withstand conditions. Now, the novel-endophyte fescue has some of the fungus IN it and Roberts says it works MUCH better. Roberts tells Brownfield, “The way that one plant breeder says it is tall fescue without this fungus is Clark Kent but tall fescue WITH this fungus is Superman.”
Seed companies, the Alliance for Grassland Renewal, the USDA NRCS, University of Missouri Extension and producers will be putting on two state Fescue Schools next month for livestock producers: March 18th at the Southwest Center in Mount Vernon, Missouri and again on March 21st in Linneus, Missouri. Roberts says the key to the new fescue is to manage it properly to prevent over-grazing.