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Fescue questions

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  • Fescue questions

    I put this in the Horse Care forum but haven't gotten any responses so maybe this is a better place to ask.

    We are trying to seed in an area that will be used as a riding arena in the summer and for grazing in the winter. As far as I know there is no fescue of any kind on our farm or any where near us.

    We have a grass seed mixture made for playgrounds that is supposed to make a "turfy" type grass that stands up to abuse. My big worry is that there is Creeping Red Fescue in this mixture and pregnant mares will graze this in the winter.

    The fescue is endophyte free but will it stay that way? I just don't want to plant something that may cause a problem later on.
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  • #2
    I live in fescue country. There would be no way where I live to have a fescue free field. Around here if you plant with endophyte free fescue it will not remain that way for long. I manage my broodmares the following way:

    1) I pull them off all grass 3 months before foaling. I feed them fescue free hay that is brought down from up north.

    2) I keep a tube of domperidone on hand just in case. Have never had to use it thus far but it makes me feel safer.

    So far it has not been a problem (knock on wood). It actually is a good forage for horses and extremely hardy grass so it is heavily used here in NC.

    If I were you I would not rely on the grass staying endophyte free and manage my mares appropriately. Or find a different type of grass to plant in the field. When I lived in Florida the fields were planted in a crab grass that was not great foraging but very hardy to riding.
    Read about my time at the Hannoveraner Verband Breeders Courses:


    • #3
      Originally posted by Blume Farm View Post
      I live in fescue country. There would be no way where I live to have a fescue free field. Around here if you plant with endophyte free fescue it will not remain that way for long. I manage my broodmares the following way:

      1) I pull them off all grass 3 months before foaling. I feed them fescue free hay that is brought down from up north.
      ^^ This. Just pull the mares off grass 3 months prior to foaling. My mare was out on fescue until 4 months prior to foaling, then still had access to little green shoots as they were growing and did not have any issues. In the perfect world she wouldn't have been on it at all but due to boarding and buying a new property we had to make do. She was also fed alfalfa/orchard hay that I brought down from up north.

      All through this last pregnancy I had to keep reminding myself that horses have been taking care of themselves alot longer than we have been taking care of them. AND think about all those backyard babies who's mamma ate whatever and didn't have any vaccinations or foaling assistance who turn out to be just fine... not worth the risk to me but limited fescue shouldn't hurt.


      • #4
        Oh seriously, I didn't know the endophyte free could transform. Here I thought I was so savy. Sad. I want someone to explain this all to me at some point. I should start a new thread. All I know is endophyte is bad.

        I just spent an obscene amount of money (didn't tell hubby about that one) on grass seed and 450 lbs of fertilizer. For my light riding area/pasture I bought the Forage First brands Horse Country Pasture Mix (almost went with the Mare/Foal mix which would be a bit better for grazing tolerance and production, but it isn't as drought tolerant and my soil is a little sandy there). What I got is 25% Dawn XL Orchardgrass, 20% StarGrazer XL Endo-Free Tall Fescue, 20% Endo-Graze XL Tetra. Per. Ryegrass, 20% Top Tim XL Timothy, 10% Spring Green Festolium and 5% Ginger Kentucky Bluegrass. I got it at LaCrosse Seed. The thing about the fescue is it is high grazing tolerance and does well in drought/heat versus some of the other grasses. The timothy and to a lesser extent the Rye and orchardgrass will be the least traffic happy it looks like. I also have some "killed" alfalfa we sprayed last fall coming back up. Probably 5-10% (depends on the area). This is getting divided into three paddocks. Assuming anyone I've called repeatedly (trenching water, etc.) to come do work ever comes...and then when seeded the grass grows. But I digress.

        There was a blend they had by a different company that is sepecifically for gate ways and high traffic areas. I can look at the tag if you would like me to? I know we are in a similar region except your area is way prettier and has better weather. I bought 25 lbs of that for a few areas in the existing pasture where their horses stood by the gate, or ate roundbales. I don't have that in front of me, but I know a quarter of it was Brome grass.

        I've talked to my vets about fescue and they tell me that just isn't a problem here. The grass guys said the same exact thing. But I'm still a worrier.

        Patty, some day when we are on vacation in the Black Hills, I'm just going to show up at your place. It looks so pretty out there.
        DIY Journey of Remodeling the Farmette: http://weownblackacre.blogspot.com/


        • Original Poster

          Thanks, everyone! I'll have the gal at the feed store call the company and ask if the Fescue is endophyte free. Sounds like if it is then there shouldn't be a problem.

          TrotTrotPumpkin, we'd love to have you visit!
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          • #6
            It is not that the endophyte free fescue will transform but rather fescue with endophyte is a hardier grass. Overtime (and not that long I believe) any fescue in the area that is not endophyte free will take over the one that is endophyte free.

            My neighbor killed and replanted 8 acres with endophyte free fescue years ago. Later they had their grass tested and the fields had been taken over with endophyte infested fescue. The grass seeds from neighboring fields blew over and because it was a hardier grass eventually repopulated the field. And they spent a lot of money on that failed project
            Read about my time at the Hannoveraner Verband Breeders Courses:


            • Original Poster

              I decided to err on the side of caution and ask our Vet . She in turn asked a colleague. Below is his answer. We will play it safe and not plant the mix with the Fescue in it. The seed Co. rep could not tell us if it was endophyte free.

              *If the product is truly endophyte-free, as certified by the Oregon Tall Fescue Commission and not a locally produced blend, it will not revert to endophyte-infected forage.

              Some local seed companies have stored E+ seed for years which “renders” the endophyte to go dormant for a few generations. It will ultimately revert to full E+ status.

              Depending on the percentage of fescue in the mix and the potential complications with broodmares, I would be inclined to test the forage before grazing my pregnant mares.



              JP Brendemuehl DVM,PhD
              Diplomate ACT
              Last edited by NoDQhere; May. 4, 2013, 12:02 AM. Reason: forgot something
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              • #8
                Friends of ours used the creeping red fescue for their cross country course. At the time they were told that creeping red is not an endophyte host.
                Positive Step Farm


                • #9
                  Hmmm, I'll have to go check where I read it, but I thought it wasn't about the E becoming "dormant" for a few years, it was that it actually died in seed that was stored for X period of time. Interesting.

                  But yes, planting potentially infected fescue is one thing, if you've got broodmares, but it's different from turning them out after foaling.
                  The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                  • #10
                    Even if you get a grass mix that is fescue free (strongly preferred), it will be impossible to keep your field from developing fescue in it. You would have to be aggressive with spraying Every.Single.Year. Fescue is a very persistent, hardy, and tough grass and nearly impossible to eliminate.

                    Keep your fields very healthy when you plant - do not allow over-grazing ever and never let the grass fall below 5 inches in height. Proper fertilization and, if you're lucky enough to have irrigation rights, keep it well irrigated especially during the nighttime hours which is the most effective use of water resources. When a field is stressed from poor conditions or over-grazing, weeds and undesirable grasses will take up residence as they are always more vigorous than typical pasture or wild grasses. As long as your field is well managed and there are enough mixtures of grasses to cover every type of growing season (cool season to warm season, back to cool seasons) you can dilute whatever fescue does end up growing in there and it should not impact your mares - but only as long as you make sure you maintain a hefty dilution. Otherwise, rove your fields every fall and spray. The endophyte is more concentrated once the grass has come to seed heads, so you could pull your mares off and mow periodically and don't let them graze in their final 3 months of pregnancy. Otherwise, go through with a portable sprayer at least once yearly (but preferably twice yearly - spring and fall) and spot spray to kill the fescue.
                    Practice! Patience! Persistence!