Penn State
ForagesPeopleTopicsResourcesSelection ToolContact Info

Topics : Species and Forage Variety Trials : Species Fact Sheets : Tall Fescue

Species: Tall Fescue

Additional tall fescue information via the Forage Information System (FIS)

Tall Fescue Harvest Management

Tall fescue can be part of a forage program but should not be all of it. Legumes with tall fescue improves animal performance and increases forage production during the summer. Legumes are difficult to maintain in a tall fescue sod, but there are a number of management practices that will help keep legumes in the stand. Two of these practices are maintaining pH above 6.0 and annual applications of potash. Tall fescue grown with either red or white clover should not be allowed to smother the legume in the spring. This can be avoided by grazing early and close to the soil surface. Red clover is a short-lived perennial and must be managed to produce seed if red clover is desired in the stand after 2-3 years.

Tall fescue will withstand closer grazing and more abuse than most cool-season grasses. But it can be overgrazed to the point that vigor as well as production is reduced. Don't graze closer than 3 or 4 inches, and allow at least 30 days for the tall fescue to recover.

Improved animal performance has been reported for the new endophyte free varieties of tall fescue relaitive to endophyte infected varieties. Increased average daily gains of 0.5 lb per animal per day have been reported for 7-12 month old angus steers when grazing endophyte free compared to endophyte infected tall fescue. Other tests comparing orchardgrass and endophyte free tall fescue have shown similar animal performance. In a two-year study at Penn State University comparing endophyte free tall fescue varieties, animal performance was similar on all varieties. While orchardgrass is generally of higher quality during spring and summer, tall fescue is of higher quality in fall, especially after frost.

If fescue is to be used during the summer, maintain a legume in the stand to improve animal performance. Otherwise, allow the late summer growth to accumulate for use in the fall or winter stockpiling. Tall fescue that is used exclusively for stockpiling is usually maintained in a pure stand.