The stocking rate of livestock on a pasture is known to have a significant impact on both forage productivity and financial profitability of an operation. Too many animals in a field results in overgrazing and the need to provide costly supplemental feed; too few animals result in underutilized forages and therefore lost income. While many factors influence how many animals a farm can carry, soil type has a major influence and should be considered when purchasing, leasing, planning, or managing livestock on pastures. Using Web Soil Survey is a simple way to determine the soil types on your farm.
Carrying capacity is defined as the number of animals that the environment can sustain indefinitely given the food, habitat, water and other necessities available in the environment. For livestock, carrying capacity refers to how many animals a farm or pasture can carry throughout the year without negative environmental impacts. Carrying capacity is based on the soil type and slope of the land, characteristics that take thousands of years or more to change. The productive capacity of the land will dictate what that land is most useful for. The full publication explaining how to use Web Soil Survey can be found at www.uky.edu/ag/forage.