Fescue Endophyte Research Study
Farmers in the Appalachian region have planted fescue for years because of its hardiness. However, high levels of a parasitic fescue endophyte, Acremonium coenophialumas, can cause production losses. When endophyte levels are 60% or higher, it has been shown that dairy cattle, breeding mares, meat animals, and young animals have a higher risk of breeding or production losses. This study is aimed at improving the viability of small farm operators and increasing the overall health of the region’s livestock population.
* Test half the farms with fescue pastures in Allegany County for fescue endophyte.
* Of the herds found to be grazing infected fescue, test 60% to determine herd health by the end of the project.
* Use the results of the Fescue Endophyte Research Study as a basis for making sustainable management recommendations to the agricultural community.
* Conduct an agricultural demonstration field day to share the Fescue Endophyte Research Study results with the farming community.
* Conduct a workshop for conservation groups, government agencies, and sport organizations to share the results of the study and its correlation to wildlife habitat.
Many of the fields tested (68%) have endophyte levels at 60% or higher.
At a 60% or higher endophyte level, dairy cattle, breeding mares, meat animals, and young animals have a higher risk of breeding or production losses.
Because of the variety of sites and differing effects of the fungus on livestock classes, herd health was determined too large of a variable to adequately measure.
Findings and Results
A total of 85 fields have been tested on 31 different farms in the tri-state area to date. The testing period was from June 1996 to September 1996, in July of 1997, and in July of 1998.
The fields with “hot” pastures have been identified. Farmers have been notified and provided with recommended options for managing and improving pasture quality.
A fact sheet with our study results, general guidelines, and recommendations for treatment has been developed for public information.
A program was given to 30 farmers in a tri-county region around Morgantown, West Virginia, in May of 1997. Results of the 1996 testing period were shared and treatment methods were discussed. A display of the project was set up at the “Grazing in the Northeast” symposium that was attended by over 200 farmers, researchers, and specialists. A workshop was held in November of 1997 to share project results and recommendations with more than 50 farmers and landowners in the project target area.
The project was accomplished in the Appalachian Mountain region and involved two physiographic provinces that varied from shallow and shaley on the ridges to deep and fertile in the flood plains and stream terraces. Within Allegany County, where a majority of the testing was done, the eastern part receives 10 to 15 inches less precipitation per year than the Allegany Plateau to the west.
Since testing showed a 60% or higher endophyte level, animal health in certain classes of livestock was at risk. In particular, dairy cattle, breeding mares, meat animals, and young animals increased their risk of breeding and production losses. This risk could be mitigated with pasture management, maintaining a balance of grass and legumes, frost seeding or drilling clovers every two to three years, management intensive grazing, and removing cows, mares, and ewes from infested pastures during peak breeding times.
Reported September 1998. 1999 Northeast Region SARE/ACE Report.
Allegany Soil Conservation District
11602 Bedford Road, NE
Cumberland, MD 21502
Office Phone: 3017771747