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

2006 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


A new non-toxic endophyte-tall fescue association (MaxQ tall fescue), free of the toxic alkaloid ergovaline, offers benefits for grazing farms. Max Q fields or plots were established on 11 commercial (7) or research farms (4) during 2002-2004, however few measurements were made during 2006. At the Jackson Research Branch a plot study found so significant difference in yield of MaxQ and ‘wild’ (K31) tall fescue. At the Wilds, bison cows were stocked on MaxQ and ‘wild’ fescue pastures, however few differences in reproduction rate and cow or calf growth were found. Study results were presented at 2 meetings, in 4 college classes, and in 15-20 producers calls.

Objectives/Performance Targets

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

Field measurements were made at a) The Wilds Conservation Center. MaxQ and ‘wild’ fescue areas grazed with bison cows and calves. and b) Jackson Branch. forage variety trial included MaxQ and K31 in 2006.
The following sites were not visited during 2006. DeBruin, Braddock, Krusling, Stoller, Putnam, Mansfield Correctional Institute, (Eastern) EORDC, OARDC Western

2) Field measurements

a) weather
There were some periods of lower rainfall in spring 2006, however for most of the growing season, rainfall was above average. Many areas reported 2006 as one of the best growing seasons ever. Rainfall at Jackson Apr-Oct 2006 totaled 25.43”, 1.5” above average

b) pasture data

Forage production was measured at the Jackson Research Branch, in a plot trial comparing MaxQ (2006 production = 5.67 ton/ac) and K31 tall fescue (2006 production = 6.30 ton/ac), however this difference was not statistically significant.

Pasture cover was measured on one occasion at the Wilds (19-Sep-2006) using a calibrated rising plate meter (50 hits) and found an average pasture biomass of 3,443 kgDM/ha. This was sufficient for livestock growth and production.

c) animal data
MaxQ and ‘wild’ fescue pastures were stocked with 6 and 18 bison cows, respectively. Average weights were 502 and 464 kg on 25 Apr 2006. Calf production was identical for both treatments (50% of cows), although calves on ‘wild’ fescue were older and thus heavier than MaxQ (89.3 vs 68.3 kg, respectively). Cow growth following pregnancy was similar for both pasture types, with net weight loss by early October of 4-5 kg per cow.

3) Publications

Kristin Mack. 2006. Evaluation of the production from non-toxic endophyte infected tall fescue (Lolium arundinaceum) under grazing in Ohio. MS thesis, The Ohio State Univeristy

4) Presentations

a. Central Ohio Grazing Meeting – Complex mixtures for grazing 26 Jan 2006 (350 people)
b. OFGC, Reynoldsburg – Ohio Forage Research update 3 Mar 2006 (35 people)
c. Classroom teaching. Endophyte modules presented to: HCS412 (15 students), HCS612 (9 students), Anim Sci 340 (45 students), Wilmington College forage class 28 Nov. 2006 (12 students)
d. 15-20 producer calls per year specifically asking for information about endophyte

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 from endophyte, which is toxic to livestock. The non-toxic endophyte tall fescues (MaxQ and Advance) offer the potential for increased animal production from this area, however forage production and bison cow production were similar for both pasture-types in 2006. Information was presented at various forms to an estimated 465 people in 2006.