Grazing North Texas – Sideoats grama

David Rohmer examines Sideoats grama in his Clay County pasture. Cattle historically winter very well here partly because Sideoats makes up about 25 percent of total grass production and carries a winter protein level of about four percent. (Photo by Tony Dean)

By Tony Dean

In August of 2015, we introduced this “Grazing North Texas” series by highlighting one of our most important forage plants, Sideoats grama. On this third anniversary, we will take a closer look at this unique and valuable species.

Every Texan should be aware that Sideoats grama is the Texas State Grass. It was recommended for this honor in 1971 by the Texas Council of Chapters of the Soil Conservation Society of America and the Texas Section of the American Society of Range Management and was officially adopted by Senate Concurrent Resolution 31 in 1971.

Resolution 31 states, in part, that “Although there are many desirable forage species native to the State, one variety, Sideoats grama, occurs on a greater diversity of soils than any other grass; on rangelands of West Texas it is the backbone of the ranching industry.”

Sideoats grama is a deeply rooted summer perennial bunchgrass. It is a mid-grass in height, reaching from eight inches to 36 inches, depending upon variety and growing conditions. As a mid-grass, it does not produce the total pounds of forage that the tall grasses produce, but the quality of the forage is very good.

Sideoats grama produces high quality, nutritious forage that is relished by all classes of livestock. Crude protein can reach 11 percent in spring green up, decrease to five to eight percent during summer months, and maintain a very respectable 3.5 to 4.5 percent protein after frost, making it one of our most important forage species.

Sideoats have rather wide leaves that take on a characteristic color and curl as the plant matures. The seed head is a zigzag stalk containing small spikes dangling from one side, thus the name Sideoats. Depending upon variety, Sideoats can spread by seed and by small, stout rhizomes. It is often found in colonies.

To read more pick up a copy of the August 2018 NTFR issue. To subscribe call 940-872-5922.