Kansas (SEK) during late summer and fall in 2022; Most tall fescue went into dormancy early and never broke dormancy. It is difficult to gauge fescue recovery but in cases where tall fescue stands were hit hardest, producers may opt to renovate pasture by replanting with a novel endophyte tall fescue variety.
Kentucky-31, the predominant tall fescue variety in SEK, contains a fungal endophyte that produces ergot alkaloids that are toxic to cattle. These alkaloids depress body condition, reproduction, and milk production in cows, which negatively affects calf rate of gain. It also causes rough hair coats, leading to heat stressed cattle in summer months. These symptoms are referred to as “fescue toxosis.”
This fungus is why tall fescue is tolerant to drought and heavy grazing. For years, these benefits have outweighed the negative impacts on cattle performance, until the development of novel-endophyte fescue varieties. Now, producers can capture the drought and heavy grazing tolerance without encountering “fescue toxosis.”