Removal of Infected Fescue with Warm-season Grasses and Introduction of Legumes

Final Report for FNC98-211

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 1998: $1,738.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1998
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


To increase summer weight gain on livestock by inter-seeding legumes and replacing some endophyte-infected fescue with warm-season grasses. The goal was to replace one third of the pasture with warm-season grasses.

We started our farming operation in July 1985 with 120 acres. [The farm had] low Ph levels and fertilizer along with bad fences. I wanted to improve my pasture, so I set up a rotational grazing system to improve the pasture. This was done by putting some pasture into paddocks in 1988. Reseeding can now be done by drill, thus saving the topsoil. With rotational grazing, cattle will not be able to "grub" grass into the ground. Less grass will prevent soil erosion and will enhance the use of hay and pasture.

With rolling land, crops are not suitable for our farm. Sheep and cattle are our main income along with hay and agro-forestry. High levels of toxic fescue and no warm-season grasses give us less income and more off-farm feed costs.

4-H has been a main part of our farm for all the years we have lived here.

The most important question of all would be: How cost effective is this practice [of using warm-season grasses and legumes]? Given the effect of toxic fescue, the return [from using the warm-season grasses and legumes] far out weighs the input cost. Eastern Gamma Grass itself is the most expensive as the seed can range from $6 to $13 a pound with 10 lbs to the acre.

Why use legumes? They are higher in protein than just grass. They benefit on farm nitrogen as clovers and legumes produce it naturally.

Why use Eastern Gamma Grass? It reduces the summer slump when other grasses are slow growing. Eastern Gamma Grass grows relatively fast.

My plan was to keep the livestock for the same number of days as before, then use my old sale records for weight gain to see how the inter-seeding aided in their gain. Gain was improved as the legumes were off setting the intake of the fescue by more than 40%.

The first step I took was soil tests to find what my soils were lacking. Liming was the next step, but this was slowed by a lack of rain. Liming was done at 1/2 the recommended rate due to the lack of moisture and the high level needed to keep from putting too high a level in the top layer of soil.

Due to the lack of rainfall, seeding was not done until the spring of 2000. Again, rainfall was short and we thought the drilling was not going to take. But the stand of legumes and Gamma Grass was better than expected.

The project coordinator inter-seeded legumes into four fields (Field 1, Field 2, Field 3, and Field 4B). The legumes included red clover, birdsfoot trefoil, ladino clover, and lespedeza at seeding rates recommended by USDA. A no-till drill was used for planting.

Field 7 was used to establish Eastern Gamma Grass. Seeding started on April 16 and ended on April 17, 2000. The forage in that field was timothy, lespedeza, and fescue. The fescue in Field 7 had endophyte at a 75% plus rate. A burn down was done with Roundup at the rate of one qt per acre.

Eastern Gamma Grass took a long time to get established from seeding in 2000 and 2001. We did not have any production off of it then. With the slow growth rate and lack of moisture, I needed to start collecting my data after March 2001. The lack of rainfall cut my water supply off completely. The project was extended for one year to allow time for establishment of new seedlings and data collection.

2002 was a good year for the seeding. With good management, the legumes and Eastern Gamma Grass will be a benefit for a long time.

Warm-season grasses and legumes can play an important role in enhancing summer weight gain on yearlings and calves. The inter-seeded legumes knocked out the fescue toxicity. Dole raised crossbred bulls that reached over 900 lbs each in 12 to 15 months on the mixed pastures.

People in our county and surrounding counties will be informed and will start recognizing our program. After putting the rest of my rotational grazing system in place, we will have our farm featured in a newsletter.

Thanks to everyone for being so helpful with this project as I knew at the start it would involve a lot of time.

As the cost of seeding the Eastern Gamma Grass is high, I would like to see more cost share on that kind of seed.


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.