Melodic Bluegrass mountain music with guitars, fiddles and plaintive, high lonesome voices — white soul music, if you will — does not necessarily come to mind when driving down Camp Salmen’s Parish Parkway. What you will see, however, is plenty of actual Bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium). Clumps of the grass with the blue-grey cast are mixed in with the menagerie of other grasses and herbaceous plants that line the road.
Grasses have been important to mankind for thousands of years for crops, feeding our livestock, ornamenting our surroundings with lawns and making sports such as baseball and golf possible. Grass is from a group of plants called graminoids which include rushes, reeds and sedges; however, I’ve never heard anyone declare, “The graminoids are always greener on the other side of the hill.”
The secret to grass is that, unlike oak trees, banana plants, or rose bushes for instance, you can crop off blades of grass just above the root and they will grow back quickly just as they were, time and again. Animals that man either employs or eats such as sheep, cattle, goats, rabbits, horses, llamas, deer, camels and antelope, in turn, eat grass in a procedure called grazing.
These animals practically live with their heads bowed to the ground and typically use a front set of teeth ideal for nipping off the blades, a set of molars for grinding the blades into something like hummus and a set of multiple stomachs to thoroughly process it.
Any farmer who raises grazing livestock will tell you he makes his living as a grass farmer as much as by raising animals and not just any grass will do. Nutritional content of grass is affected by soil and growing conditions and these make some areas of the country better than others for growing good grass for livestock.
Much sought after acreage like the meadowlands of the Bluegrass Region in Kentucky, where underlying limestone helps the grass contribute to strong and sturdy horses or the Flint Hills of Kansas where cattle are fat and happy, are prime examples. Not so much for grass in Louisiana, but it works well enough to make the state rank somewhere in the middle of the pack nationwide for raising cattle.