A farmer’s report of an unusual forage grass led Michael Casler, a USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) geneticist at the agency’s U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, Wis., to identify the grass as meadow fescue. Meadow fescue has been long forgotten, although it was popular after being introduced about 50 to 60 years before tall fescue.
Casler has developed a new variety of meadow fescue called Hidden Valley, and its seed is being grown for future release. Meadow fescue is very winter-hardy and persistent, and seems to fit into today’s intensive-grazing operations. Geoffrey Brink, an ARS agronomist working with Casler, discovered that meadow fescue is 4 to 7 percent more digestible than other cool-season grasses dominant in the United States.
In another study, meadow fescue had a nutritional forage quality advantage over tall fescue and orchardgrass that may compensate for its slightly lower annual yield further north, as reported in the Agronomy Journal. Also, the yield gap begins to close with the frequent harvesting involved in intensive grazing.