When Texas Winter Grass becomes that ‘Danged Old Spear Grass’

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Two-flower Melic is pictured here and is increasing in coverage in western Sterling County. (Wasn’t aware it even existed a short while ago) It is as very palatable- high protein- cool season grass that long ago disappeared from the rangeland because of its palatability and poor grazing technique. Only surviving being nestled in a rock crevasse or brush that prevented grazing by livestock. Note the density of leaf structure, potential of considerable cool season grazing is high as the pictured plant is over 24” tall.

When Texas Winter Grass becomes that ‘Danged Old Spear Grass’

 

Texas Winter Grass is very useful for winter grazing of livestock, high in protein and a relatively vigorous producer of forage. Then (Just about now in our country) it produces a crop of seeds or spears that can be absolutely devastating to a wooled lamb crop. The spears become entangled in the wool and begin to penetrate the skin, then work their way into the fat and muscle, to a great extent ruining the carcass of the lamb. (Not to mention the pain and misery of the lamb.) Back in the day, when large numbers of lambs were produced in ‘Spear Grass’ country, producers and buyers alike were keenly aware of the timing of the spears becoming mature. Even if the lambs were somewhat ‘green’ and a little to light it was best to market them prior to them being contaminated with the spears resulting in a much lower price paid. The same is true today, but the volume is nothing like it once was as the fine wool industry has gone through a dramatic change of its own. (Change is inevitable, adapting to it is the key.) Thus, the tale of the metamorphous of Texas Winter Grass to that Damned Spear Grass.

 

As we work toward moving our rangeland to year-round grazing with no feeding of livestock being necessary at any time of the year, thus causing our rangeland to produce cool season perennials is a necessity. (With improving rangeland conditions, it is becoming apparent that wildlife fit into this no feed category as well.) For that to be accomplished the rest-graze program must be a year-around effort. (Cool season plants need animal impact and rest, just as the warm season plants do.) Yes, Texas Winter Grass is one of those along with Canada Wild Rye, Western Wheat, Texas Blue Grass, Two Flower Melic, Three Flower Melic, Engelman Daisy and probably many other plants including forbs and browse including Wild Honeysuckle now being found on the rangeland. Even the Texas Winter Grass is increasing, which is not a good thing considering the value of the other cools seasons that are increasing with each passing winter. It is assumed that the ‘danged old spear grass’ will begin to reduce in coverage as competition from other plants increases. (Signs of this happening are beginning to be noticed, but once again ‘Patience’ is in order.) Diversity of plants is very important within a rangeland grazing program.

 

If your grazing program is such that the ‘Decreaser’ perennial grasses are ‘increasing’. (Pun intended.) Part the dense cover of Texas Winter-Texas Filaree etc. and look below them to the ground. I suspect you will find numerous seedlings of Buffalo-Sideoats-even an Indian Grass here and there, plus many more. Exciting things are happening on the range with the moisture received last fall and this spring. Good management now will provide amazing results even when it gets dry again. (That time will be here before you know it.) Yes, this is an exceptional year for finding numerous seldom found plants, but it is also an exceptional year to give Mother Nature the chance to soundly establish these perennials for the future when the rains are not as abundant. What an opportunity to move our rangelands forward.

 

THE BETTER IT GETS THE FASTER IT GETS BETTER

 

 

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Rangelands and Ranching: A Study of Proper Use of Rangelands & the Environment by Frank S Price

My son and I ranch a cow-calf, wooled sheep and hair sheep operation in West Central Texas. We operate 7 different grazing units and utilize a single herd, traditional pasture grazing program within all these units. My son represents is the 5th generation of this enterprise that was started in 1876 by my great grandfather. He and his brother began by driving a herd of cattle from Ennis Texas to Santa Anna Texas, ultimately driving the herd of cattle they had built to Kansas markets and returned to Sterling County, to begin a permanent ranching operation. Rainfall within our scattered operations runs from 17” to 20”. The winters, while going into the single digits on occasion are relatively mild compared to ranches further north, resulting in mostly mild winters producing usable cool season growth along with the dominant warm season plants.

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