Financial Implications of Non-toxic Endophyte-infected Fescue Pasture: Establishment Costs and Livestock Returns

2004 Annual Report for LNC03-233

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2003: $149,555.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
David Barker
Ohio State University

Financial Implications of Non-toxic Endophyte-infected Fescue Pasture: Establishment Costs and Livestock Returns


New non-toxic endophyte-tall fescue associations (MaxQ and Advance) that are free of the toxic alkaloid ergovaline, offer benefits for grazing farms. Max Q fields or plots were established on 11 commercial (7) or research farms (4) during 2004. Comparison-plots of established tall fescue, or endophyte-free tall fescue occurred at each location. Antibody tests were conducted to validate endophyte status of fields remained true to treatment. Presentations on endophyte and information about this study were presented at 4 on-site pasture walks, 4 farmer-based meetings, and 9 published articles during 2003-2004.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Objectives of the project were 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.


1) Field inspections

All sites were visited during 2004.
a) DeBruin. Excellent Max Q and Jessup E- establishment. Detailed pasture measurement conducted July-October 2004.
b) Braddock. Poor emergence on MaxQ. Advance AR542 over-drilled into bare areas. Farm converted from cattle to sheep; incomplete grazing during 2004.

c) Krusling. Excellent Max Q establishment. Chicory broadcast in Fall 2003. Advance AR542 proposed for planting fall 2004.
d) Stoller. Adequate Advance establishment. Detailed pasture measurement conducted July-October 2004.
e) Putnam. 15 ac Advance planted Sept 2004. Chicory and clovers proposed for March 2005. Detailed pasture measurement proposed for 2005.
f) Mansfield Correctional Institute. Field site moved to Pittinger Rd. Excellent establishment for pure MaxQ pastures and mixed MaxQ pasture. No fescue control; ‘open’ grazing during 2004.
g) The Wilds Conservation Center. “Double spray” establishment fall 2003. Spring establishment 2004, mowed August 2004.
h) OARDC, Wooster. Max Q not planted in spring 2002 – seed held over until fall 2002. Endophyte test in 2003 showed no endophyte present.
i) (Eastern) EOARDC, OSU. Study areas excellent establishment, measurements in 2004.
j) OARDC Western. Small plot yield measurements 2004.
k) Jackson Branch, OARDC. Study areas excellent establishment, measurements in 2004.

2) Field measurements

a) weather
Precipitation in Wooster in 2004 was near average for all months except May, June and August when it was almost 40% above average.

b) Endophyte
2003 Debruins MaxQ, 97% infected (non-toxic)
2003 Debruins E-, 26% endophyte
2004 Putmans Advance, 85% infected (non-toxic)
2004 Stollers Advance, 87% infected (non-toxic)
2004 Stollers ‘wild’, 100% infected

c) Soil Tests
The pH levels were comparable for all fields on all farms for both testing years, ranging between 6.0 on Stoller’s ‘wild’ field to a maximum of 7.3 on Putnam’s festulolium field. The phosphorus levels were more varied, ranging from 11 ppm in 2004 on Debruin’s E- to 83 ppm in 2004 on Putnam’s Advance.

d) Pasture Growth
In 2004, DeBruins’s MaxQ had a growth rate of 54 kg DM/ha/d in early October and 24 kg DM/ha/d in late October. Growth rate on E- was similar in early October 54.4 kgDM/ha/d.
In 2004, Stoller’s Advance had a growth rate of 44 kg DM/ha/d in September and 61 kg DM/ha/d in October. Growth rate on the ‘wild’ was 38 and 31 for the respective measurement periods.

e) Milk Yield
Milk production was measured for all farms during the 2004. There was a trend of decreasing milk production throughout the season at DeBruin’s and Putnam’s. This was due to the cows nearing the end of lactation on the seasonal herds. All cows at DeBruin’s were seasonal, but Putnam’s was semi-seasonal, milking a few cows through the winter. Stoller’s herd was not seasonal, and showed an increase in production at the end of the 2004 season.

Milk yield was measured as the daily vat collection while cows were grazing the respective pasture treatments (lb milk/cow/day) during Sep-Oct 2004. Although milk yield on novel-endophyte tall fescue pastures was similar to other pastures, there are some notable points. At DeBruin’s, the two treatments (MaxQ and E-) had slightly better milk yield (40.1 and 39.7 lb/cow/d, respectively) than the remainder of the farm (37.2 lb/cow/d). At Stoller’s, the ‘wild’ tall fescue field had similar milk yield per cow as Advance (41.2 vs 39.9 lb/cow/d), but had less than half the number of grazing days (7 vs 17 days grazing), due to its lower production.

3) Presentations

Academic Meetings
a.Ohio Forage and Grassland Council Annual Conference, Mar 2003, research update (15 present).
b.Ohio Forage and Grassland Council Annual Conference, Mar 2004, research update (15 present).
c.American Forage and Grasslands Congress – poster presentation. Factors Affecting the Occurrence of Endophyte in Perennial Ryegrass and Tall Fescue in Ohio Dairy Pastures. Proceedings 15 June 2004, Roanoke, VA.
d.South-East regional research meeting (SERAIG-8) Research Update (45 present).

Farmer meetings/Pasture Walks
a.North Central Ohio Dairy Grazing Conference, Wooster OH, 30 Jan 2004 (250 present).
b.What’s new in endophyte CAMELID MEDICINE, SURGERY, REPRODUCTION, AND NUTRITION, 25 Mar 2004 (85 present).
c.“What’s new in forages” Indian Lakes Grazing Demonstration, Belle Center OH., 29 Sep 2004 (18 present).
d.Forages for Alpaca’s 6 Dec 2004, Columbus OH (75 present).

Classroom Teaching
a.HCS412 (22 present).
b.HCS612 (9 present).
c.Anim Sci 340 (32 present).
d.HCS602 (7 present).

4) Publications

a)D.J. Barker, N.S. Hill, and J.G. Andrae (2004) Measuring endophyte in tall fescue – plants, fields and farms. Chapter 6 in the online e-book “Tall Fescue Information System”
b)Barker, D.J., Landon Rhodes, Megan Burgess, Rory Lewandowski, Tom Noyes, Dean Slates (2004) Factors Affecting the Occurrence of Endophyte in Perennial Ryegrass and Tall Fescue in Ohio Dairy Pastures. American Forage and Grasslands Congress Proceedings 13:505.
c)Forage seeding decisions for 2004. By Mark Sulc and Dave Barker, OSU Extension (revised by Pat Resse, Ohio Country Journal (submitted 24 October 2003) published date Dec 2003, pg4.
d)Article for David Anderson’s Website “A Word of Caution Against Camelids on Turf” 23 December 2003.
e)“A Word of Caution Against Camelids on Turf” D. Anderson article reprinted in The International Camelid Quarterly (CQ) magazine, March 2004. Tyler Allair, Production Director, International Camelid Quarterly [].
f)Results of the ryegrass endophyte survey were submitted as short articles for the website “Farm and Dairy” [], and the Forage Team newsletter “Amazing Graze”.
g)Amazing Graze article “Endophyte testing” April 4.
h)“All about grazing” article “Avoid turf in forages” Farm and Dairy #4 22 December 2004, and Amazing Graze Jan 2005.
i)All about grazing – Feb 2004.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Tall fescue is widely used and planted throughout Ohio, occurring on some 2.5 million acres. It is not popular for intensive production (stockers and dairy) due to the occurrence of ergovaline which is toxic to livestock. The non-toxic endophyte tall fescues (MaxQ and Advance) offer the potential for increased animal production from this area – for example, stocker production could increase by 0.1 lb/head for every 10% decrease in the composition of toxic tall fescue in pasture. Non-toxic endophyte seed is approximately twice as expensive as endophyte-free tall fescue seed, which (in turn) is approximately twice as expensive as toxic tall fescue seed.

There is considerable interest in endophyte options in Ohio since nearly every pasture meeting in 2004 included consideration of endophyte options for farmers. Information was presented at 8 meetings and 4 classes, totaling an 570 pasture farmers, industry professionals and students in 2004.