Grazing livestock in the MLR – stocking rates

  • Fact sheet
  • August 2015
farm-types-20

Having the correct number of livestock on a given area of land is critical to sustainable land management.

Too many animals on a small area of land can expose the soil to wind erosion, water erosion, pugging and compaction; all of which reduce the soil’s ability to produce vigorous, healthy and resilient pastures.

The optimum number of livestock that can be grazed during a season varies depending on on-farm and external factors. These must be regularly assessed so livestock feed requirements are met.

A standard method has been developed as a guide to help property owners to calculate current grazing pressure, and approximately how many animals a property can support.

A Dry Sheep Equivalent (DSE) is the unit against which other farm animals are compared.

Calculating your total DSEs

Divide your animals into their class, assign a DSE value and calculate the total DSEs.

The table below compares different classes of livestock to a standard DSE. For example, it shows that a fallow dry female deer will consume 1.5 times more feed than a dry sheep.  

Type of livestock

DSE value

No. equivalent
to 100 wethers

Alpacas (based on 65 kg animal)

Hembra

 1.3

77

Macho

 1.1

91

Deer

Fallow dry female or castrate 1.5 67
Fallow breeding deer and fawn 2.2 45
Red dry female or castrate 2.1 48
Red breeding female hind 3.0 33
Red stag 4.5 22

Goats

Dry Angora  1.0 100
Breeding Angora  1.5  67
Dry milk or meat goat  1.5 67
Milk or meat goat - lactating 3.0 33
Sheep

Dry sheep - wether, ewe, hogget score - condition 2

 1.0 100

Dry sheep - wether, ewe, hogget - fattening

 1.4  70
Breeding ewe  1.5  67
Beef cattle
Dry cow steer 350-450 kg  8-10  
Fattening cattle 20-32 months 9-12  
Cow with calf at foot - up to 8 months 13-16  
Bulls - 100 kg  16  
Horses
Horse  10  
Mare with foal  16  
Pony 7  
Stallion  16  

Calculating current stocking rate

Stocking rate OR DSE / hectare = Total DSE’s ÷ Total grazing hectares

Example: 365.5 DSE ÷ 40 hectares = 9.0 DSE/ha

The stocking rate in the example property is 9.0 DSE/ha

Calculating property carrying capacity

Once you have calculated the current stocking rate in DSE, the next step is to determine the stock carrying capacity for your property. This is a measure of how many stock the property can sustainably support.

When calculating the carrying capacity of a property, you need to consider a range of on-farm and external factors, including:

Seek specialist advice from a qualified local agronomist or farm management consultant to determine the correct carrying capacity for your property. You will also need to be mindful that carrying capacity can change depending on the time of year.

More information

We have developed a range of factsheets about grazing livestock in the Mount Lofty Ranges to assist you with good land management. See the related links below.

Related links