Management and nutritional quality of tall fescue and alfalfa grown in combination, compared to tall fescue fertilized with nitrogen
’Kentucky 31’ endophyte-free tall fescue fertilized with 160 kg N ha⁻¹yr⁻¹ was compared to similar fescue grown with ’Cimarron’ alfalfa in a randomized block pasture experiment with four replications. Quality and yield of stockpiled forages and performance and serum minerals of grazing steers were investigated during 1991-92 and 1992-93. Effects of grazing and timing of initiation of stockpiling forages were investigated during autumn of 1992. Rate and extent of release of Ca, Mg, P, S, Cu, and Fe from stockpiled forages were determined in a dacron bag study in 1992-93. In 1991-92, stockpiled N-fertilized fescue improved steer performance over stockpiled fescue-alfalfa (P<0.05); in 1992-93, this result was reversed (P<0.05) due to forage availability. Blood urea nitrogen was higher (P<0.07) and serum Ca and S were higher (P<0.05) in steers which grazed stockpiled fescue-alfalfa. September stockpiling of fescue-alfalfa improved botanical composition, yield, and forage quality, compared to August stockpiling. September stockpiling of N-fertilized fescue improved quality but lowered yield, compared to August stockpiling. Fescue-alfalfa had higher (P<0.05) yield and improved botanical composition when grazing occurred. Nitrogen- fertilized fescue had higher (P<0.05) yield when mechanically harvested. Alfalfa released P, Ca, Mg, S, and Fe to a greater extent and rate than either type of fescue at 24 h and P, Mg, S, and Fe at 72 h (P<0.05). Fescue grown with alfalfa released S to a greater extent and rate than N-fertilized fescue, Fescue-alfalfa produces animal performance as good or better than N-fertilized tall fescue, while eliminating need for N-fertilization.