Lameness in cattle grazing tall fescue was reported shortly after KY-31 became popular as a new forage option in the mid-southern United States (Cunningham, 1955; Maag and Tobiska, 1956). Fescue foot is found in cattle grazing E+ tall fescue during winter. Jensen et al. (1956) reported that cattle became lame as early as 18 d after grazing E+ tall fescue, whereas Jacobson et al. (1970) reported gangrene as early as 25 d after the start of E+ grazing. In the early stages of fescue foot, red or flushed color is observed at the coronary band of the hoof (Fig. 16-3). If cattle remain on E+ tall fescue, gangrene will develop with eventual necrosis and sloughing of the hooves (Bush et al., 1979). Cattle sometimes lose other extremities such as tips of ears and tails as a result of the vasoconstriction associated with consuming E+ tall fescue (Garner and Cornell, 1978). Bacon (1995) implicated the presence of the fungus in E+ tall fescue with fescue foot and toxicosis. Although fescue foot is an acute and costly problem when it occurs, tall fescue toxicosis causes more financial losses to cattle producers because of its often unobserved widespread incidence.
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Cattle leg suffering from fescue foot. (photo: David Bohnert).