What hot fescue looks like

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Fire Sweep Ranch

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Our fescue is hotter than ever! Everywhere you look, the seed heads are covered with ergot, as evidenced by the black "mouse poop" looking infected seeds. We are starting to see the effects of this. Our conception rates have hit the floor in the last 30 days. Normally, we are sitting about 70% to 80% percent, we are below 50% for the first time since we had problems with our thermos shocking the sperm! Cows are hot when you put your arm in them... Since I sold my only breeding age bull, I am now looking to lease a bull for 30 days to get what we can not seem to pick up, just about 3 cows. My next oldest bull calf is an October....
Anyway, a direct result of having a wet and warm season...

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dun

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Was talking to the folks at NRCS the other day, they mentioned that a lot of people are bringing in samples wondering what it was. So far (knock on wood) I haven;t seen any here. But now I'll be keeping a closer look out for it. Maybe we've gotten enough rain that it's washing it off.
 
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dun":29j3ip42 said:
Was talking to the folks at NRCS the other day, they mentioned that a lot of people are bringing in samples wondering what it was. So far (knock on wood) I haven;t seen any here. But now I'll be keeping a closer look out for it. Maybe we've gotten enough rain that it's washing it off.

Dun
I sent those pictures and a few more (we have rust also) to the extension (Tim Schnackenberg), and he said this:
"The two pictures are good shots of fescue ergot. The one show stem and leaf rust on fescue. We have had perfect conditions this year for both. I am confident the ergot is giving you troubles and wouldn’t be surprised it is related to the conception rate problem. I am unaware if the rust can affect the cattle but wouldn’t be surprised. Mowing was a good move on your part.
We are noticing a lot of ergot this year. The orange seed is one stage of it I believe just before it turns black. Probably like the flowering stage. We are having a lot of discussion right now in extension on whether or not the cattle trouble only comes when they consume the black/orange seeds or if it has been releasing ergot alkaloids for many weeks before. My leaning would be to say that ergot alkaloids have been released for a while but no one seems to have done research on this. The Vet Diagnostic lab is looking into this on campus."

So, Dun, if what they suspect is true, the cattle eating the grass will still show the effects of the poisoning even if the seeds are not consumed (ergot alkaloids in the grass itself). Our cattle are getting ready to move off a pasture that has the seed heads still on the stems, so they have been exposed since they rotated there the end of May. The grass I pictured above was taken from the pasture we are rotating to, and I did brush hog that pasture down to knock the seed heads off and prevent pink eye from the dry stems. I found the black seeds on grass that was growing near the t-poles that I could not brush hog around (used to pull temp poly wire around in the small grazing paddocks we set up in the pasture), or I would have never seen it like that on the stem. The brush hog was covered in seed when I pulled out of the pasture, and it looked like it had been stored in a feed mill and mice had crawled all over it and pooped everywhere (hence, the black seeds from the ergot infection). We have never seen it this bad out here, but this has been an unusually wet year for us.

On a side note, we had our final steer weigh in on Sunday. Three of the steers showed evidence of fescue poisoning. Two had lost their switches and stopped gaining the beginning of June, and one looked to be losing his hooves (dead lame on all four, swollen lower limbs...). The kids were stumped, because the cattle are fed in a little dry pen, just corn, Amino Gain, and orchard grass. Then, we found out that when they baled hay the first part of June, the hay not picked up by the baler was gathered and feed to the three steers. It only takes a few days to see the effects of fescue poisoning on naive cattle, and since these steers had been in a dry lot with no exposure for likely 8 months, they would be considered naive.
We learn something new all the time in this business!
 

Nesikep

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that is a whole lot of ergot.. we don't have much around here... a little once in a blue moon when we have cover crop oats, barley or wheat... We have the heat here, just no humidity.

Good luck with your steers
 
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Red Bull Breeder":yul4bv2f said:
Bush hog the tops off before they get to that stage. Pretty basic fescue management.
That pasture was brush hogged, that was some that was growing around a t-pole where we could not get close...
But with that said, the extension is saying when you see it there (in the seed), it is already in the plant (ergovalene). So, thus taking off the tops helps, there is still exposure in the grass itself. We are still learning about fescue, and the general thinking.... And studies here locally at the research center farm is showing, that there is that more negative effects coming from the grass itself and not the seed. The seed seems to be the "icing on the cake" so to speak, or adds insult to injury...
 
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AllForage":10winfwk said:
Are u sure a bull will fair much better?

Good question, and I do not know! Since we have never ran into this situation, I am not sure a bull will help. Elevated body temp has the same effect on the bulls as it does the cows...
What I am eager to see (or hear) is how other's have fared with conceptions when they do their fall herd checks.
 

Banjo

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I don't seem to have any conception rate problems, but I do have a few with sore feet in both herds. I have a few with sore feet even in the winter when there are no seedheads. Ever since last fall I have been keeping out mineral with the highest amount of iodine I can find....some minerals have no iodine at all.
They seem to recover in two to three weeks
 

Banjo

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Just yesterday someone told me that putting goats in with cattle would keep the seedheads eatin.
And also a billy goat with the cows and you wouldn't have any eye problems. Anybody heard that or is it just a wives tale?
 

Lucky_P

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Old spouse's tale, banjo, at least for the pinkeye deal, and I've got some significant doubts about the seedhead deal too - goats are way more discriminating about what they'll eat than cows... the old 'eating tin cans' thing is way off the mark.
Saw in the KCA Cow Country News that arrived the other day that Santa Gertrudis cows don't get pinkeye; at least, according to the lady raising them. Bullflop.
 

Banjo

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Lucky_P":atb5awj3 said:
Old spouse's tale, banjo, at least for the pinkeye deal, and I've got some significant doubts about the seedhead deal too - goats are way more discriminating about what they'll eat than cows... the old 'eating tin cans' thing is way off the mark.
Saw in the KCA Cow Country News that arrived the other day that Santa Gertrudis cows don't get pinkeye; at least, according to the lady raising them. Bullflop.
I haven't tried it so I don't know. I don't usually have a big pinkeye problem, when I do its just usually 2 or 3 then it stops......I think its herd immunity. 2 or 3 get it and the rest of the herd build an immunity to it in the mean time. What are your thoughts on that? Is that plausible?
 

talltimber

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Red Bull Breeder":1598felh said:
Bush hog the tops off before they get to that stage. Pretty basic fescue management.

What is your timing for your bush hogging? How high are you leaving the stems? I would be worried about leaving stems too high, irritating eyes.
 

dun

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talltimber":6e8335p3 said:
Red Bull Breeder":6e8335p3 said:
Bush hog the tops off before they get to that stage. Pretty basic fescue management.

What is your timing for your bush hogging? How high are you leaving the stems? I would be worried about leaving stems too high, irritating eyes.
It doesn;t just irritate the eyes. Particularly in calves it actually lacerates the eyeball. A couple of years ago I wanted to leave all the grass I could so rather then brushhogging it to thepoint that I just took off a bit of leaf I left it so sthe stubbnle was just above the end of the tallest leaf. Almost all the claves ended up with lacerations of the eyeball and a good number of cows had the same problem. The vet squirted some kind of a dye stuff in a couple of the eyes and you could actaully see the streaks from where the eyeball had been cut. Since then I've gone back to cutting it a little shorter and haven;t hadf any issues.
 

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Kris,
This is a little off topic but I have found after 15 or so years of farming that things catch up. For the first 7 or so years organic seemed easy and no issues. After fields get old, use up N soil bank, and cattle have grazed fields long enough problems arise. I got a spell of pinkeye, occasional footrot, things like that. So with your fescue issue you gotta be flexible I guess. Keep a bull around, switch to fall calving, maybe do some feeding and take hay off. Just something to ponder.
 

dun

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AllForage":3tkk5k5d said:
Kris,
This is a little off topic but I have found after 15 or so years of farming that things catch up.
That pretty well sums it up. You gotta be flexible since Ma Nature revels in throwing curve balls. It goes to the "Plan for the worst, hope for the best, and take whatever comes your way"
 

talltimber

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dun":5dafxxtp said:
talltimber":5dafxxtp said:
Red Bull Breeder":5dafxxtp said:
Bush hog the tops off before they get to that stage. Pretty basic fescue management.

What is your timing for your bush hogging? How high are you leaving the stems? I would be worried about leaving stems too high, irritating eyes.
It doesn;t just irritate the eyes. Particularly in calves it actually lacerates the eyeball. A couple of years ago I wanted to leave all the grass I could so rather then brushhogging it to thepoint that I just took off a bit of leaf I left it so sthe stubbnle was just above the end of the tallest leaf. Almost all the claves ended up with lacerations of the eyeball and a good number of cows had the same problem. The vet squirted some kind of a dye stuff in a couple of the eyes and you could actaully see the streaks from where the eyeball had been cut. Since then I've gone back to cutting it a little shorter and haven;t hadf any issues.

That's why I've been just leaving the heads to make seed and bush hogging in Aug. I don't know if I'm doing the right thing or not. I done some test spots last year. Bush hogged some earlier than Aug and the weeds needed it again by the time I turned cows in to it around Thanksgiving. The other reason why I left it was insurance against drought potential. If it quits raining in last of June, say, a guy might be wishing he had anything left, even headed out fescue, versus clipping it short and it burning up?

I took a drive this morning, looking, and I've got some of this black on the heads also. I am going to research some this afternoon/tonight. I may need to just go ahead and bush hog now, and in Aug too, prior to fertilizing for stockpiling the hay field. I've got calves on it now, which I didn't last year, and they've kept it knocked down a little more. I looked them all over really good this morning, no obvious problems. Some cows standing in the creek, like normal.

I am wondering if a guy could bush hog a section, then hot wire them in there until I could get the rest bush hogged. I am continuous grazing now, half stock rate or less, and am kicking the idea of starting to at least rotate next year, even under stocked.

It's hard for me to bush hog down to four inches or so with all this good leaf out there?
 

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