Thursday, March 13, 2014

Farmers to Tell Benefits of Nontoxic Fescue at School Held March 31 at Southwest Research Center in Mt. Vernon

Contact: Eldon Cole, livestock specialist
Headquartered in Lawrence County
Tel: (417) 466-3102

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – When farmers learn what works in growing grass, they share. That will happen at a fescue school being held 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., March 31 at the Southwest Research Center in Mt. Vernon.

A fee of $60 is being changed and advance registration is required for the program since seating is limited to 60. Registration can be made by calling Carla Rathmann at 417-466-2148 or by sending an email to

The school kicks off a campaign to replace toxic tall fescue with new fescue varieties that won’t harm grazing livestock.

“Farmers like farm success stories. We learned at past grazing schools that our best teachers are often the farmers who use science-based practices,” said Craig Roberts, University of Missouri forage agronomist.

The program features speakers from MU, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the seed industry and farmers.

The program, the first in the nation, is sponsored by the Alliance for Grassland Renewal.

“We have known for years the lost gains and lower reproduction in cow herds,” Roberts says. “Replacing toxic fescue with novel-endophyte varieties can add another three-quarter pound of daily gains on calves.”

Darrel Franson, cow-calf producer from Mount Vernon, Mo., will tell how he converted all of his pastures to a new novel endophyte fescue.

He moved from Minnesota to Missouri. His cattle fell apart when grazing toxic Kentucky 31 fescue. In 2001, he replaced 10 acres of fescue. That led to a year-by-year replacement of all fescue.

He used the MU-developed spray-smother-spray for killing and replacing pasture grasses.

“Franson is not only a good grass farmer, he is an excellent record-keeper,” Roberts says. “He records everything.”

He will share records that show the new fescue pays.

Fewer cows lose their hooves, more live calves are born and calves gain weight faster. “The calves do better because the cows produce more milk,” Franson says. He is past president of the Missouri Forage and Grassland Council, co-sponsor of the schools.

The school will teach the fine points of seeding and managing the new grass.

The new varieties take more management. The old fescue grows a toxic endophyte fungus between plant cells. The toxin inhibits grazing, which protected the stand.

“With the current high prices for calves, there has never been a better time to improve pounds of gain,” Roberts said. “The early adopters have the most to gain.”

For more information about any of the four schools being held in Missouri, go online to


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