When stocker prices are high, it’s a good time to consider lost gains from grazing infected tall fescue pastures, says a University of Missouri extension forage specialist.

In Missouri grazing trials, steers grazed on pastures with high levels of endophyte gained almost a pound a day less than steers on low-endophyte pastures.

“As a rule of thumb, steer gain decreases a tenth of a pound per day with every 10% increase in infected plants in a pasture,” says Craig Roberts. “With what we know about how to manage around tall fescue toxicosis, no producer should tolerate those kinds of losses.”

There’s no cure for fescue toxicosis.

“There are, however, proven management strategies that can lessen its effect,” says Roberts.

Those include replacing the toxic fescue with endophyte-free fescue or varieties with beneficial endophytes, interseeding other forages to dilute the toxins, rotating livestock to non-toxic pastures, supplementing the diet, controlling fescue seed heads, and more.

“Most of these practices limit the amount of toxin the animal eats,” Roberts says.

He and John Andrae at the University of Georgia pulled together a list of these practices in a 16-page guide, “Tall Fescue Toxicosis and Management.” The publication is available on the Internet. To find it, click here: http://www.plantmanagementnetwork.org/feature/fescue/.