Tall fescue [Schedonorus arundinaceus (Schreb.) Dumort.] responds to N fertilization; however, data are limited on N management options for the claypan soils of the eastern Great Plains. A field study was conducted from fall 1986 to spring 1990 to determine the effects of N fertilizer timing (100% in fall; 67% in fall, 33% in late winter; 33% in fall, 67% in late winter; and 100% in late winter), placement (surface broadcast, surface band [dribble], and subsurface band [knife at 4 inches]), and rate (75 and 150 lb acre−1) on tall fescue sampled in April to simulate “early-grazing” and then later in May for hay yields. The soil was a Parsons silt loam (fine, mixed, thermic Mollic Albaqualf), which is a typical claypan soil of the area. Fescue sampled in mid-April yielded more when all or 67% of the N was applied in the fall, placed on the surface, and at 150 lb N acre−1. Crude protein in April samples was greater with knife placement in the fall, whereas digestibility was less with knifing when part or all of N was applied in late winter. Hay harvest yields were greatest when N was knife-applied at 150 lb acre−1 in both fall and late winter. In contrast, hay quality was generally improved with late winter and surface applications. Optimum N management will depend on producer goals to graze the forage early, to feed the hay to their own cattle at a later time, or to sell excess hay to others.