- Agronomic: general hay and forage crops
- Animals: bovine
- Animal Products: dairy
- Animal Production: grazing - continuous, grazing - multispecies, grazing - rotational
- Education and Training: demonstration, focus group, on-farm/ranch research
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance
- Production Systems: general crop production
Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) infected with the fungal endophyte Neotyphodium coenophialum is the predominant cool-season grass used within many livestock operations totaling more than 35 million acres in the United States. The fungus has the advantage of conferring drought tolerance, insect resistance and greater growth to the plant but the disadvantage of severely impaired animal production. Current best practice is to plant tall fescue pastures free of any endophyte, however, this “clean” status is usually short-lived and eventual contamination with toxic ‘wild’-endophyte is inevitable. A new novel endophyte-tall fescue association, free of the toxic alkaloid ergovaline, retains the benefits of endophyte infection in plants but is non-toxic to livestock. Currently there is relatively little information about the relative costs and effectiveness of the various establishment options, or of the potential benefits to livestock production and financial return from this novel endophyte. A producer-based, field study is proposed on 12 farms in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, including 7 commercial farms, an endangered-livestock wildlife and conservation center, a county demonstration farm, 2 Ohio prison farms and a university research station. Objectives of the project are to: 1) Record costs of novel endophyte fescue establishment using various options 2) Measure success of establishment each autumn, and relate this to establishment cost 3) Measure productive performance of livestock (weight change) and dairy cows (milk yield) maintained on non-toxic fescue. 4) Compare expected financial returns from the likely improved productive performance to costs of establishment, using budgeting models (e.g. DAFOSYM) to extrapolate from the individual fields to a farm-scale 5) Transfer information to project participants and the NCR-SARE farming community, using one meeting at a trial site in each year, a Fact Sheet, a science publication collating project results, and an instruction module on endophyte to inmates in farm training. Outcomes of the project are expected to be improved farm sustainability resulting from greater profitability from use of novel rather than toxic tall fescue endophytes, and recommendations for cost-effective establishment of novel endophyte fescue.
Project objectives from proposal:
1) To record costs of novel endophyte establishment using various commercial establishment options
2) To measure success of establishment, as purity of the novel endophyte by antibody test each autumn, and relate this to establishment cost (and other management criteria)
3) To measure productive performance of livestock (weight change) and dairy cows (milk yield) maintained on non-toxic fescue and control pastures (either endophyte-free or other species)
4) To compare expected financial returns from the likely improved productive performance to costs of establishment, using budgeting models (e.g. DAFOSYM) to extrapolate from the individual fields to a farm-scale
5) To transfer of information to project participants and the NCR-SARE farming community, will include one meeting at a trial site in each year, and by a Fact Sheet and a science publication collating project results.