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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Animal performance and economic comparison of novel and toxic endophyte tall fescues to cool-season annuals
Year: 2008
Author(s): Beck, P. A., Gunter, S. A., Lusby, K. S., West, C. P., Watkins, K. B., Hubbell, D. S.
Source Title: Journal of Animal Science
Source Type: Journal
pages: 2043-2055
Original Publication: http://  
Abstract: Increased costs of annual establishment of small grain pasture associated with fuel, machinery, and labor are eroding the profitability of stocker cattle enterprises. Interest has therefore increased in development of cool-season perennial grasses that are persistent and high quality. This study occurred on 24 ha (divided into thirty 0.81-ha paddocks) located at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Livestock and Forestry Branch Station, near Batesville. Two tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) cultivars infected with novel endophytes (NE), Jesup infected with AR542 endophyte (Jesup AR542), and HiMag infected with Number 11 endophyte (HM11) were established in September 2002. Jesup AR542 and HM11 were compared with endemic endophyte Kentucky 31 (KY-31) tall fescue; wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and cereal rye (WR, Secale cereale L.) planted in September 2003, 2004, and 2005; and annual ryegrass [RG, Lolium perenne L. ssp. multiflorum (Lam.) Husnot] planted in September 2004 and 2005. Each year, 3 steers (3.7 steers/ha) were placed on each pasture for fall and winter grazing, and 5 steers (6.2 steers/ha) were placed on each pasture for spring grazing. Animal performance is presented by year in the presence of a year x treatment interaction (P < 0.01). Body weight gain per hectare of steers grazing NE tall fescue was greater (P < 0.01) than those of KY-31 and WR during 2003 to 2004, whereas in 2004 to 2005, BW gain per hectare of steers grazing NE and RG did not differ (P = 0.29) and was greater (P < 0.01) than that of WR, which was greater (P < 0.01) than that of KY-31. During 2005 to 2006, BW gain per hectare was greater (P < 0.01) for steers grazing RG than those of NE and WR, which did not differ (P = 0.14). Body weight gain per hectare was least (P < 0.01) for steers grazing KY-31. Average net return of NE tall fescue was greater (P < 0.01) than KY-31, but profitability of NE did not consistently differ from cool-season annuals. Across the 3-yr study, NE tall fescue produced net returns per hectare of $ 219; this level of profitability would require 4 yr for a new planting of NE tall fescue to break even. Novel endophyte tall fescues offer potential benefits related to decreased risk of stand establishment of annual forage crops, longer growing season, and acceptable animal performance.