Tall fescue is grown on approximately 2 million acres in Arkansas and is the most common perennial cool-season grass. Most of the fescue is the variety KY-31, and it is infected with the toxic endophyte that causes fescue toxicosis in livestock. Typical symptoms include rough hair coat, standing in ponds especially in cool weather, lameness in the hind feet during winter, loss of tail switch or rear hoof, panting or salivating in warm weather, low percentage calf crop and low weaning weights.

In cases where fescue toxicosis andfescue foot have occurred in the past, consider renovating toxic KY-31 fescue pas-tures and converting to a nontoxic novelendophyte fescue. There is no need toconvert all KY-31 fescue. Dr.KenCoffey’s research showed that convertingjust 25 percent of the fescue acreage tonovel endophyte fescue was enough tooffset many of the economic problemscaused by toxic fescue.

Renovation Strategy

Use the spray-smother-spray technique to convert fescue pastures. Tillage byitself will not kill all the KY-31 fescue.The “spray-smother-spray” method hasbeen a reliable method for renovatingtoxic fescue pastures and can begin in the spring or fall.

If starting renovation in the spring, start in late April to early May when fescue is actively growing and before any new seed is produced. Clip or graze the fescue to a height of 4 to 6 inches and apply a nonselective herbicide such as glyphosat eat 2 quarts per acre. Depend ing on weather and how many weed seedlings germinate, a second herbicide application may be needed before the next step.

After the fescue top growth dies down ,no-till plant a summer-annual forage, such as pearl millet or sorghum-sudan. Thes ummer annual forage provides heavy shade and competition for any remaining fescue plants and can be harvested for hayor grazed.

In fall, after harvest of the summer annual, apply herbicide again to kill any remaining KY-31 fescue and the summer annual forage. The field can be planted with novel endophyte fescue in the fall.
If starting the renovation process in fall, apply glyphosate to the activelygrowing fescue during fall (September tolate October) and no-till drill a small grain for winter/spring forage. Do not plant annual ryegrass because natural reseeding from ryegrass will cause severe competition later when novel endophyte fescue is planted.
Follow the harvest of the small grainforage in late spring with a second herbicide application. Continue the renovationprocess by no-till drilling a summerannual such as pearl millet. After the finalharvest of the summer forage, no-till drillthe novel-endophyte fescue in fall.
Several proven novel endophyte fescue varieties are on the market and have been grown successfully in Arkansas. Current varieties includeMaxQ and MaxQ-Texoma (PenningtonInc.), Estancia (Mountain View Seeds),BarOptima (Barenbrug Seed) and Duramax (DLF International). Thetechnology has been shown to work in research and on farms and should be considered as part of a strong forage program.