Diseases Diseases

How To Manage Tall Fescue Toxicosis


Toxicosis is caused by a fungus that lives and grows between the cells of tall fescue plant. This fungus has no effect on the tall fescue plant. Toxicosis can also be caused by chemicals and alkaloids that are produced inside the tall fescue plant. However, toxicosis has some positive effect on the tall fescue as an infected tall fescue is more resistant due to its enhanced ability to tolerate stress than a toxicosis free tall fescue plant. The toxicosis infected tall fescue is able to tolerate drought, diseases, insects grazing pressure and can be stared for many years and still remain solid.

Step 1

Renovate pastures with legumes. Adding white and red clover and annual lespedeza increases weight gain of cattle grazing infected fescue. Legumes contain crude protein and are easy to digest as compared to tall fescue. The presence of legumes in a tall fescue pasture reduces the level of toxicosis ingested through grazing, since they substitutes for a portion of the tall fescue in the diet.

Step 2

Keep pastures grazed or clipped during spring and summer. In the spring and early summer, tall fescue pastures grow actively and produce large amounts of forage. Grazing these pastures close and preventing the forage from maturing improves animal performance on toxicosis infested pastures. The best way to accomplish this is by using high stocking rates on some pastures, and use other pastures for hay production. As the spring and summer progress, the production of forage reduces and the pastures that had been cut for hay can be used for grazing. This should result in efficient use of forage, improved forage quality and improved animal performance.

Step 3

Use a controlled breeding season. though fescue toxicosis occurs throughout, the most evident and striking effects of the toxicosis occur from June to August. This is the time when temperatures are the highest and animal performance is the lowest. Calving time and cow breeding season should be adjusted in a manner that they do not occur during summer.

Step 4

Prevent contamination with infected seed. Once a toxocosis free stand of tall fescue has been identified, it is important to prevent any infected seed from contaminating the field. Since toxicosis does not move from plant to plant, the only possible way for the toxicosis infection level to raise is through growth of an infected plant. Do not mix toxicosis infected tall fescue hay with toxicosis free pasture. Seedheads in hay may drop seed which can germinate and become established. It is also important to prevent the spread of infected seed by machinery. Mowers, rakes, balers, and more. should be cleaned properly before being brought into a toxicosis free field.

Step 5

Use proper grazing management. overgrazing, especially during the summer and early fall, results in stand decline. Rotational grazing is the best method because it allows time for the grass to recover from grazing. A 3- to 4-week period between grazing periods favors stand maintenance. If continuous grazing is applied, it is important to avoid overgrazing as continuous close grazing results to severe stand loss, especially when during periods of high temperatures or drought. Toxicosis free tall fescue pastures should not be grazed below about 4 inches. When pasture growth has slowed and overgrazing is likely, either feed hay or move cattle to another pasture that has more available forage.

Toxicosis has some serious effects on the cattle that present themselves as clinical signs. This effects include.

  • low weight gain
  • rough hair coat during the summer
  • reduced reproductive performance
  • low feed intake that causes weight loss
  • low milk production
  • necrosis of hooves and tail
  • the cattle tend to spend more time in shades and water

Sources and Citations

http://forages.tennessee.edu/Page percent202- percent20Fescue percent20Toxicity.html






By winnie mwihaki, published at 03/13/2012
   Rating: 4/5 (11 votes)
How To Manage Tall Fescue Toxicosis. 4 of 5 based on 11 votes.


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