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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Lexington, Kentucky » Forage-animal Production Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #264128

Title: Setting, adjusting stocking rates to meet production goals

item Aiken, Glen

Submitted to: Progressive Forage Grower
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/25/2011
Publication Date: 8/1/2011
Citation: Aiken, G.E. 2011. Setting, adjusting stocking rates to meet production goals. Progressive Forage Grower. 12(6):10-12.

Interpretive Summary: Management decisions on fertilizer and weed control needs, which forage species/cultivar to plant, and herd genetics are very important to the bottom line of any cattle farm, but stocking decisions are the most important and should be considered a management tool in meeting short- and long-term production goals. Stocking rates are optimally set to provide economic return while not causing pasture deterioration that ultimately leads to costly replanting. Adjustments of stocking rates may also be necessary to compensate for dry weather patterns and seasonal slumps in forage growth. Stocking rates should be set and adjusted based on a good knowledge of the forage species/cultivars being utilized (growth potential and distribution, and quality), herd forage consumption and nutrient needs, soil characteristics (fertility, pH, drainage, etc), and seasonal weather and rainfall patterns. Considerations in setting and adjusting stocking rates will be discussed.

Technical Abstract: Setting and adjustments in pasture stocking rates should be used as a management tool in meeting short- and long-term production goals. Cattle producers should base stocking rates on body weight per acre or animal units, and not strictly on animals per acre, to better evaluate dry matter intake needs and requirements of their herds. The effects of stocking rate on cattle performance and pasture health are influenced by soil fertilizer, pH, and rainfall patterns. In other words, a well fertilized pasture with optimum soil pH and soil moisture will carry more cattle than one that is limited in soil fertility, pH, or moisture. By understanding these factors, cattle producers can set stocking rates that are sustainable in meeting production goals.