Ongoing Emphasis on Fescue Management for Beef Producers, 2004       

Harris Sellers, Southwest Livestock Field Specialist


Southern Iowa beef producers continue to list management of fescue pastures as one of the greatest challenges to their cow-calf enterprises.  This region of Iowa has a large concentration of beef cow operations, and improved grass management is a key to increased profitability.  Every Extension forage education effort in southern Iowa the past few years has included a segment on managing fescue, but this issue continues to be important to producers.   


In the past year several specific programs targeted fescue management.  In May, a series of three producer seminars were conducted along with the Update for Veterinarians at McNay.  Dr. John Johns from the University of Kentucky was guest presenter at these events, sharing current research on fescue renovation and supplementation.  In addition, the Iowa Forage and Grassland Conference featured Dr. Craig Roberts from the University of Missouri with fescue talks targeting both horse and beef audiences.  Another eight pasture walks and seminars held in south-central Iowa included segments on fescue management. Three specific on-farm demonstrations of fescue renovation strategies were started in 2004 as part of the Rathbun Watershed special project.


A follow-up survey was distributed in November to 98 producers and veterinarians that attended fescue meetings held May 11-13.  Thirty-four respondents all indicated they gained new ideas for managing fescue at these workshops. All responses also indicated fescue had an adverse impact on their operations, from lower reproductive rates to increased expenses for supplementation.  Estimates given of the dollar impact of fescue on their operations ranged from $1,000 to $10,000 per farm.  Many are unsure how to quantify the impact of fescue.

All respondents’ listed specific management practices introduced at the workshops that they have applied to their farm, including introduction of legumes, clipping pastures to remove seed heads, rotational grazing, checking micro-mineral levels in their free choice minerals, and new supplementation strategies. Many ideas also were shared for other education and demonstration needs for this important beef audience.  Field days and seminars are planned for 2005, including pasture walks featuring the Rathbun watershed demonstrations.

Dec. 30, 2004
107 - Iowa Beef Center

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