August 8, 2003 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Some livestock species do not tolerate tall fescue because of its toxic potential. However, goat producers should not worry about that too much, according to University of Kentucky Extension Associate for Goat Production Terry Hutchens.

“Some goat producers are becoming concerned with tall fescue because of it’s endophyte problem,” he said. “But there is very little scientific evidence to support a negative effect for goats consuming tall fescue with high levels of endophyte.”

Hutchens said goats appear to successfully breed, give birth and lactate while consuming a diet high in fescue pastures and hay.

Research has shown that mowing of seed heads in the spring reduces the intake of highly toxic seeds by cattle. Goats on the other hand favor the seed heads even though the toxins are known to be highest in the seed. Hutchens said that further supports his opinion that goats are not negatively affected by consuming tall fescue.

If goat producers are worried that their livestock may be adversely affected by tall fescue consumption, alternatives do exist.

Hutchens said legumes such as red clover, annual/perennial lespedeza or alfalfa can be seeded into tall fescue pastures, therefore diluting tall fescue consumption. Producers also could move goats from tall fescue to warm season grasses during hot and/or dry months.

“Producers can find other sources of hay such as orchard grass, timothy, alfalfa or red clover to reduce toxicity problems in the winter feeding period,” he said. 

Ammonia gas treatment can reduce the toxin levels in tall fescue hay. Also, using no-tillage crops such as corn, small grain/soybean or Sudan grass helps to eliminate tall fescue from pastures followed by establishment of alternative pasture species or endophyte-free tall fescue.

Fescue toxicity is a serious economic problem in the beef industry, and its affects have extensively been studied. Still, substantial evidence for developing new stands of tall fescue with novel endophytes does not exist.

Hutchens advised goat producers to seriously consider all the factors before making large investments such as extensive pasture reseeding or buying products to counter the toxic effects of tall fescue on goats.

“So far evidence just doesn’t show us that goats have the same problems with fescue endophytes as other livestock species,” he said.


Writer: Aimee D. Heald 859-257-4736, ext. 267
Source: Terry Hutchens 859-257-2465