Novel Endophyte Establishment at Kevin Moyers Twilight Farms

Kevin Moyers, of Twilight Farms near Hot Springs, VA, also has cattle on a family farm in WV.  He noticed a great difference in the weaning weights of his calves at the two separate farms.  The farm at Hot Springs had a lot more fescue and the calf weaning weights were significantly lower compared to his calves on the high elevation farm in WV where the main forages were orchardgrass and bluegrass.  Kevin was making improvements to his grazing system at Hot Springs, but the cows would not shedding off their winter hair coat, about ¼ of the cows had lost their tail switches and were noticeably suffering from heat stress.  He knew the problem was toxic endophyte fescue.

At first Kevin tried to find another local farm to rent with higher elevation where he could manage for orchardgrass and bluegrass to avoid the toxic alkaloids in the fescue.  Unfortunately, the land he needed was not available for rent. He had heard the testimony of other farmers who had made the transition to novel endophyte fescue and thought that was the thing to do.  After attending the tall fescue renovation workshop in Blackstone, VA, it solidified the conversion process and the plans for conversion were starting with the local Conservationist at the USDA-NRCS office.   

Kevin admits, “The conversion process had its challenges for me.  The big thing was making sure we had enough grass available for grazing to get through the conversion process. The next biggest challenge was timing the burndown sprays to control excess plant residue on the surface.  If you have too much residue, it is hard to get the seed to soil contact for even stand establishment.” Regardless of these challenges the stand established well and is in full utilization the spring – summer following fall establishment.  “Despite those challenges, I’m happy with the way the fescue established, and the field looks great today.  It is phenomenal how much better the calves graze the novel endophyte fescue compared to K31 fescue.  It is amazing how well they go after it and graze it evenly!”

The Alliance is sponsoring a pasture walk for producers on July 23rd at Twilight Farms from 4:30 – 7:30 pm.  If you can attend please go to the VFGC website to register online ASAP at https://vaforages.org/summer-pasture-walk-twilight-farms/.  We hope to see you there!

~ JB Daniel, NRCS. The Alliance for Grassland Renewal is a national organization focused on enhancing the appropriate adoption of novel endophyte tall fescue technology through education, incentives, self-regulation and promotion.  For more resources or to learn more about the Alliance for Grassland Renewal, go to www.grasslandrenewal.org

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