STOCKTON, Mo. — Missouri pastures are primarily made up of KY 31 fescue. Grazing KY 31 fescue in the summer time can lead to low cattle performance due to low quality forage and endophyte toxicity. “One way to combat this problem is to overseed crabgrass into your KY 31 fescue pastures,” says Patrick Davis, MU Extension Regional Livestock Field Specialist.
Crabgrass improves summer grazing of KY 31 fescue pastures in two ways. Since crabgrass has an optimum growing period of June to August, its incorporation improves the quality of the pasture during the summer grazing period. Crabgrass incorporation also results in less consumption of the toxic endophyte KY 31 fescue. Consumption of toxic endophyte KY 31 fescue causes vasoconstriction of blood vessels, which reduces blood flow to extremities. This causes reduced heat dissipation resulting in heat stress, excessive salivation, decreased intake, decreased weight gains and poor reproductive performance. Lack of blood flow to extremities also causes loss of extremities like tail switches and in case of hooves, fescue foot. Other symptoms related to toxic endophyte fescue consumption include less milk production, retained rough hair coat, and unthrifty appearance. More information on toxicosis symptoms associated with toxic endophyte KY 31 fescue consumption in cattle is mentioned in MU Extension Guide Sheet G4669. “Overseeding crabgrass into KY 31 toxic endophyte fescue pastures improves summer grazing pastures and reduces the chance of cattle exhibiting toxicosis symptoms, which should improve cattle operation performance and profitability,” says Davis.
“Download MU Extension Guide Sheet 4661 or contact your local MU Extension Agronomy Field Specialist for proper fertility requirements, seeding rates, and seeding methods for crabgrass,” says Davis. At establishment, your soil pH should be greater than 5.5. April is the optimal seeding time and seeding rate should be 3 to 4 lbs per acre.
“For optimum forage management and animal performance, use management intensive grazing (MiG) practices along with the incorporation of crabgrass into your KY 31 fescue pastures,” says Davis. MiG allows management of grazing height between the range of 8 to 10 inches and 3 inches. Staying in that range allows crabgrass to provide high quality forage for cattle grazing and persist through the grazing season.
For more information on utilization of crabgrass in summer cattle grazing programs, contact your local MU Extension Livestock Field Specialist. You may also find more information on how to improve your grasslands at https://extension2.missouri.edu/programs/nrcs-mu-grasslands-project.
— University of Missouri Extension
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