Rangeland Ecology & Management

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Stocking Rate

Stocking rate expresses the actual number of animals on a management unit throughout the time period of grazing. Therefore, stocking rates are the management interface that relate livestock consumption to forage supply. Stocking rate decisions have important ramifications on rangeland vegetation, livestock and economic responses. Although stocking rates may vary from year to year, average long-term stocking rates should closely reflect carrying capacity to ensure the optimal and sustainable grazing of range resources. For this reason, stocking rate considerations form the interpretative basis of many inventory or monitoring programs.

In year-long grazing situations, such as southwestern United States, stocking rates are generally expressed in animal units/acre/year (or /section/year in areas of low carrying capacity). In regions where grazing is restricted to part of the year, such as the Great Basin, stocking rate is generally expressed in animal unit months/acre.

References and Further Reading

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Holechek, J.L., R.D. Pieper, and C.H. Herbel. 1995. Range management principles and practices. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. 2nd ed. pp. 177-214.

Scarnecchia, D.L., and M.M. Kothmann. 1982. A dynamic approach to grazing management terminology. Journal of Range Management 35:262-264. (pdf)

Society for Range Management. 1989. A glossary of terms used in range management. Society for Range Management. Denver, CO. 3rd ed. p. 14.

Vallentine, J.F. 1990. Grazing management. Academic Press. San Diego, CA. pp. 321-351.