Calving First-Calf Heifers on Novel Endophyte Tall Fescue is Hard to Beat

This past year, I have spent a lot of quality time at the farm, which has been a joy.  My family runs 110 cows on the family farm near Virgilina, Virginia.    We calve starting October 15 and have a tall fescue-based system.  As I write this we are calving and getting along quite well.  In addition to the toxic KY-31 that was originally planted on the entire farm we have areas we have had in annuals for the last 6 years, and old cropland that was renovated to MaxQ novel endophyte tall fescue.  Our old pastures actually are a mixture, all including KY-31 tall fescue, but with significant amounts of orchardgrass, bluegrass, white clover and red clover during cool season, and bermudagrass, dallisgrass, crabgrass and johnsongrass during the warm season. 

Despite the diversity of our pastures we still have problems with fescue toxicosis.  Like all producers with old stands of tall fescue we have done what we can to mitigate the problems.  We don’t fertilize with nitrogen in the spring, we have a good mineral program, and we use rotational gazing.  Still, in May and June our cows look terrible and really suffer.

This year we had ample rain in August and September so our pastures really grew.  Our mature cow herd is grazing stockpiled forage with a lot of crabgrass, dallisgrass, and KY-31 tall Fescue.   As things turned out we had the chance to graze our first-calf heifers on a Max Q pasture during the first month of calving (Oct 10-Nov 10).  I used a technique called frontal strip grazing where a single wire is advanced across the field a little at a time without the use of a backfence.  Once the cows get used to the system they are right with you as you give a new strip of grass and you can get away without backfencing for about two weeks.  We gave them fresh grass twice a day when we checked them and tagged calves.  These cows get so used to close contact that you can reach out and touch almost any of the herd.

The heifers did especially well this year without any supplement other than a mineral. Most of the group calved during the 30 days and the cows were always full and happy with each fresh allocation of grass.  Tall fescue is high in nutritive value during the autumn, and the fact that the MaxQ pastures don’t produce toxins really makes tall fescue a much more valuable forage during this critical time of year.  Combining the MaxQ technology with careful grazing management makes for a system that works really well.

If you have never used frontal strip grazing or other advanced grazing techniques it is worth your time to explore it more.  Search for “The Power of One Wire” and “Twelve Steps to Amazing Grazing” to learn more.

~ Dr. Matt Poore, Professor NC State and chair of the Alliance for Grassland Renewal


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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