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Endophyte-infected tall fescue is the dominant forages in Virginia. As such, it is imperative to manage this important forage resource wisely. Ergot alkaloids produced by fescue’s fungal endophyte create challenges to accomplishing this. Tests for endophyte presence and alkaloid levels are important management tools that producers can use to minimize alkaloid consumption and the negative impacts of on animal performance. Consistent testing methods are important for adequately assessing alkaloid levels and for making comparisons among pastures over time. These results then can be used to develop a custom grazing strategy to avoid severe incidences of fescue toxicosis. Repeated testing during a grazing season can help determine possible benefits to pasture renovation or addition of legumes. Similar to testing forages for nutrient concentrations and devising a winter feeding and supplement plan, testing fescue-based pastures for endophyte infection level and for ergot alkaloid concentrations at various times during the year can facilitate management to reduce alkaloid consumption and also help determine if further mitigation is needed.
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October 19, 2018