MOUNT VERNON, Mo. – Beef herd owners serious about improving fescue pastures—and their beef herds—can learn how in a March 6 meeting at the University of Missouri Southwest Research Center, Mount Vernon.

Kentucky 31 toxic tall fescue causes endless losses in cows and calves, says Craig Roberts, University of Missouri Extension forage specialist.

“The answer is easy: Kill the old stand of fescue and replace it with a novel-endophyte fescue variety,” he says.

“Doing that isn’t easy or quick, however,” he adds. Renovation requires producers who are serious about improving their farms and cattle.

“The payoff comes for decades,” Roberts says. “Replacement pays.”

Roberts has worked with the Alliance for Grassland Renewal for the last six years.

New methods started in Missouri now spread across the Fescue Belt from Missouri to the Atlantic coast.

The Alliance school at Mount Vernon is the first of five meetings in five states this season.

The school starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. “We condensed what was two days into one day,” Roberts says. “The meetings still tell all.”

The story starts with causes of fescue toxicosis and goes on to the economics.

The most obvious toxin symptom is fescue foot, but it hurts growth in all cows and calves, Roberts says. It also devastates calving rates.

The toxin comes from a fungus, the endophyte, growing in the fescue. Plant breeders have found wild fungi that are not toxic. These are added to the novel-endophyte fescue varieties. Endophyte-free fescue does not survive.

The MU research farm has comparison plots of new fescue varieties.

Eldon Cole, MU Extension specialist, Mount Vernon, coordinates the local school. To register, call his office at 417-466-3102.

The MU Southwest Research Center is at 14158 Highway H. That is 4 miles southwest of Mount Vernon. It is part of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.