Benner, J.1; Matt Booher2
1Extension Agent, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Verona, VA, 24482
2Extension Agent, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Verona, VA, 24482


Endphyte infected tall fescue is the most important and common cool season forage for Virginia livestock producers. The fungal endophyte presents a challenge, as it produces toxic ergot alkaloids that cause a myriad of problems including reduced weight gains, reduced milk production, and reproductive performance, among other issues. Recommendations for managing tall fescue toxicosis have included diluting fescue toxins by interseeding legumes, particularly red and white clover varieties. To evaluate this practice as well as interseeding alternative forages such as bermudagrass and alfalfa a demonstration was conducted frost seeding a normal broadcast rate (1X) and a double rate (2X) of a grazing type alfalfa, bermudagrass, and red and white clover mixture. Short term and long-term establishment of these forages were limited, fescue made an average of 60% of the pasture. Forage samples were collected for tall fescue in year 2 and 3 and total forage sward ergot alkaloid concentration in years 3 and 4. All tall fescue samples collected had a total ergot alkaloid concentration above 200 parts per billion (ppb). Total sward total ergots were lower (P<0.05) than tall fescue alone. Fescue total ergot alkaloids were not reduced when plots were rotational grazed early when compared to summer stockpiled fescue (P<0.20). However, total sward ergot alkaloids were reduced when plots were rotationally grazed early (P<0.05). Managing pastures for cool season species diversity and early spring grazing may reduce total pasture toxicity.

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