The most critical aspect in the survival of continental tall fescue is grazing management during drought periods. Tall fescue stands should not be grazed during droughts. As soils dry out in spring and tall fescue growth stops, stock must be removed. This is one reason why farms in areas with dry summers should have diversification among paddocks; there should be paddocks of species that are more tolerant than tall fescue of grazing during dry spells, such as annual pastures, and perennial pastures of cocksfoot (= orchardgrass, Dactylis glomerata L.) or phalaris (Phalaris aquatica L.). Some Mediterranean tall fescues can be grazed during dry summers, especially if carryover stubble from spring is needed to maintain livestock. During major droughts, however, stock should be removed once the dry standing feed has been grazed down because animals will damage plants by treading and by removing the basal stem near ground level where carbohydrate energy is stored. Careful set stocking also can maintain tiller density when soils are moist, but long periods of set stocking will result in selective grazing of tall fescue plants in mixed pastures and a reduction in tall fescue survival (Foot et al., 1996).

Tall fescue can be damaged severely if pastures are grazed in summer after rain, even after a short period of rain. Small amounts of summer rain will result in some new growth from most tall fescue cultivars. This short regrowth is rich in carbohydrates drawn from reserves in the stems and roots, which, if eaten by stock before they can be replenished, will decrease plant survival. Tall fescue should be grazed in summer only if rain results in at least 3 wk of grass growth and the grass has reached 12 cm in height. Mediterranean tall fescue cultivars that do not respond rapidly to summer rain, such as Flecha, are therefore preferred in areas with dry summers to avoid damage done by grazing after rain. Many continental tall fescue stands on north-facing slopes in New South Wales in Australia were grazed out during droughts in the 1990s and in 2003 to 2006. A "padlock" system should be used-before tall fescue growth has stopped during a drought, stock should be removed and every gate locked until substantial growth begins again.


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