Grazing North Texas — Canada Wildrye

The seeds of Canada wildrye were once gathered widely for food by the Gosiute Indians in Utah. (Photo by Tony Dean)

By Tony Dean

Across North Texas grazing lands, we are blessed to have a few species of perennial winter grazing plants as part of our native forage.

These grasses and forbs are important because they furnish green grazing and substantial protein during winter and early spring months when the summer grasses are at their lowest.

Crude protein value for Canada wildrye in April, for leaves only, is 14 percent, while protein for leaves and stems from winter into spring runs 7 to 9.5 percent.

Canada wildrye produces leaves up to three-quarters of an inch wide and five to 12 inches long. It can grow up to 48 inches in height and reproduces from seed or tillering.

Seedhead is a tight spike four to nine inches long that begins to curve or nod as it reaches maturity.

This curved seedhead distinguishes Canada wildrye from Virginia wildrye which has an upright seedhead.

Canada wildrye is very palatable and is sought after by all classes of livestock. Forage value for deer and antelope is fair with new tender leaves being selected. Seed value for game and songbirds is low.

To read more pick up a copy of the July 2018 NTFR issue. To subscribe call 940-872-5922.28