NDSU Extension Develops Grazing Management Tools
Setting a stocking rate is one of the most important decisions that ranchers or
land managers make.
The stocking rate is the number of specific kinds and classes of animals grazing
or using a unit of land for a specific time period.
“Regardless of which grazing management system is employed, vegetation type
grazed or kind and class of livestock involved, stocking rate has the largest
impact on the health of the grassland resource and animal performance of all
management tools available,” says Miranda Meehan, the North Dakota State
University Extension Service’s livestock environmental stewardship specialist.
When setting the stocking rate, knowing the carrying capacity of the pasture is
Carrying capacity is a measure of how much forage a grazing unit has and is able
to produce in an average year. The carrying capacity is the maximum stocking
rate possible that is consistent with maintaining or improving forage production
and vegetation composition, and other related resources.
It’s also defined as the amount of forage available for grazing animals. It is
expressed as the number of available animal unit months, or number of animal
units grazed for one month.
“To ensure the health of your grazing resources, it is important that the
stocking rate does not exceed the carrying capacity,” says Kevin Sedivec, NDSU
Extension rangeland management specialist.
To aid ranchers and land managers in determining carrying capacity and setting
stocking rates, Meehan and Sedivec have developed a set of grazing management
* “Determining Carrying Capacity and Stocking Rates for Range and Pasture in
North Dakota,” a publication (http://tinyurl.com/CarryingCapacityStockingRates)
* NDSU Range and Pasture Calculator), a web-based calculator that allows you to
export files for your records
* NDSU Grazing Calculator App, which is available for Android and Apple devices
in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store, respectively