« Last post by RogueFarmer on Yesterday at 02:35:25 pm »
I live in Southern Oregon and I am doing some amount of farming.
Sabertooth, I am not at all trying to say fescue hay is ever suitable feed however in certain growing conditions even kentucky 51 endophyte fescue can be pretty much the best perennial forage that is actually still green in most of the United States. Now if you are planting pastures, you could instead use meadow fescue which is more palatable and does not have endophyte as well as endophyte free fescue and even "friendly" endophyte fescue which has a special endophyte which does not produce the toxins associated with regular endophyte Kentucky 51 tall fescue. As far as I know there are few other perennials that can replace fescue in quality for a winter forage in the midwestern united states. In order to do better I know of two ways, one would be to plant a crop of winter rye, winter wheat or triticale for winter grazing which produces some of the most nutritious grass possible on earth and two to have some kind of a grazing vineyard of honey suckle, which retains it's leaves and protein content long into the winter.
Bison are adapted to eat native stockpiled forages. Buffalo grass, big and little blue stem, indian grass and switch grass all make excellent winter feed for bison but are inedible to cattle after they grow too tall and throughout the winter. As well, bison's metabolism in winter slows down more than cattle, deer and elk, even more so, lessening their dietary requirements to make it through harsh winters. This is the biggest advantage of native livestock in the Americas.
It is extremely difficult to displace fescue once it is there. It is basically the hardiest cool season grass because of the symbiotic endophyte and because of it's spreading and crowning root system it is difficult and sometimes impossible to eradicate without use of harmful chemicals or great effort in machinery and cover cropping. Using Holisitc Management, fescue can literally be clobbered so hard by cattle hooves and manure that diversity is naturally forced onto fescue pastures. It is possible with one heavy grazing to increase biodiversity many times over. Fescue toxicity stops being recognizable after fescue is reduced to a smaller proportion of fescue domination. Traditional grazing as well as MIG encourages fescue. Fescue LOVES MIG, if you use MIG in the fescue belt of the midwest and southern united states I bet you will end up with a field of at least 90% fescue in less than ten years. Using HM, native grasses are able to compete against fescue and start to naturally establish themselves, the seeds somehow brought in by birds or stored in the ground, waiting for the right conditions.
You can base your beef farm off of fescue pastures, but that doesn't mean your finished product has to ever have personally eaten any fescue. How much will feeding a beef cow fescue harm her calf if her calf only ever eats improved pastures lacking in fescue?
I think it's important to remember why we grew beef cattle in the first place. Beef cattle are probably the most or second or third most economical source of meat on the planet. A beef cow can live off pasture that would starve all but the hardiest animals. A beef cow can survive and raise a calf where little else can be grown. Over 70% of beef cattle are in the tropics or sub tropics where grass grows incredibly lush but low in nutrition. There are parts of Africa where most livestock and humans die within months of living there in the wrong season due to a particular species of fly, but native cows can survive there.
I think there is good beef grown on fescue pastures. I raised my livestock for 2 years on fescue based pastures, their meat and milk was incredibly delicious, my cow in August in the middle of a drought was in better condition than most of the jerseys I visited that year at the Ohio State Fair.
I also fed my livestock kelp and they ate a lot of other things besides fescue.
I did feed my livestock fescue hay one year because it was almost impossible to find hay that year and I will tell you I will never do that again however, that year I also managed to only feed hay for a month and three weeks and my jersey cows grazed and dug through snow and grazed all winter long that year.
I think what eric said about high sugar and protein forages being lower in overall nutrition. Now those crops can be extremely nutritious in ideal conditions however, if conditions are not ideal those crops will be inferior quality. A better solution to building a better diet would then be to plant a higher diversity instead of trying to rely on a few high yielding and superior nutrition forages. What people forget is that these "superior nutrition forages" generally can only match but not surpass many of the "weeds" growing in their pastures in nutritional quality. However there are some super nutritious crops that have ludicrous quantities of sugar, protein and minerals. Most of them are weeds and as I am trying to explain, many that have excellent soil requirements, so often fail to meet expectations.
I think there are farms that produce good quality beef on fescue pastures, but perhaps you wouldn't like their quality either, you should try Polyface beef and Green Pastures farm and see how their beef tastes if you can.
You should also probably go to NZ because their whole beef production model is basically grass fed beef fed so well that the meat is so tender you can cut it with a butter knife.
I think the best compromise would be to buy a really quality piece of land, raise the best economic beef business you can that earns you money, which will also allow you to feast on your retired bulls and cull cows.
I have mostly heard 4 different influences on flavor and eating quality of beef. 1 the faster the animal is growing the more tender the meat will be and as soon as growth slows toughness onsets. 2 a mixture of forages is important for a balanced fatty acid profile and improved flavor and forage quality throughout the grazing life of the animal. 3 the way the animal is killed and the way the meat is stored and preserved after slaughter 4 the older an animal is the more flavor it has. The best tasting beef according to the editor of the stockman grass farmer was from a 20 year old cow. this is my experience as well, the best hamburger I ever ate was from my friends beef farm (which happens to be fescue based) from his 20 or 30 year old cull cows!
Finally, you may find this hard to believe but before he died, Bob Evans had a 2000 acre permaculture farm. Yes Bob Evans from the restaurant chain that serves breakfast foods and sells sausage! He was even quoted to say that if had learned about managed grazing when he was younger he never would have gotten into the sausage business!
Bob Evans managed to graze his cattle in Rio Grande Ohio all but 2 days out of the year. He was working on a system to utilize honey suckle for winter pasture when he died.