What is carrying capacity, and what does it mean for your farm?
Carrying capacity, also known as grazing capacity, is the amount of forage available for grazing animals in a specific pasture or field. Understanding how much forage is available is a key principle of pasture management in order to balance the available forage supply with livestock demand.
The Beef Cattle Research Council has developed a new video to help producers assess and manage carrying capacity:
Carrying capacity can be calculated using a variety of techniques and is somewhat based on trial and error. It can be monitored and adjusted over time to determine the long-term average.
When calculating carrying capacity, it boils down to three questions:
- How much forage is available?
- How much of that forage can be used by grazing animals?
- How many animals can graze on that piece of land and for how long?
The BCRC Carrying Capacity Calculator provides a road map for answering these questions using two separate methods: 1) estimates based on provincial guides and 2) field-based sampling. Each method contains four steps.
- Two Methods, Four Steps For Calculating Carrying Capacity (BCRC post)
- Grazing Management (BCRC webpage)
- Grazing Game Plan – How to Develop a Grazing Plan (BCRC webinar)
Banner photo courtesy of Beef Farmers of Ontario