National Drought Mitigation Center

Forage Availability

Forage Inventory - An estimate of available forage in each pasture and for the operating unit as a whole; used to project stocking rates and feed requirements for specific time periods (i.e., annually, grazing season, rotation cycle). (NRCS Range Handbook)

Carrying Capacity

Carrying capacity is the maximum number of animals a site can support over a given period of time without causing detriment to the future forage production.

Carrying capacity is typically expressed in AUM's or how many 1,000-lb cows with a calf could graze for one month (each animal unit eats approximately 780 lbs per month).

Carrying Capacity (AUM's)


(Total production divided by production and utilization factors)

(780 lbs per month)

The clip and weigh method is often used to calculate carrying capacity. You may want to contact your local NRCS or County Extension to help you calculate carrying capacity for large pastures with diverse diverse ecological sites and diverse plant communities. Under these conditions, NRCS recommendations can be adjusted with on-site grazing records to provide reliable stocking guidelines in most years.

Reference: NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center

Forage Availability

grazing stick can be used to estimate the amount of forage currently available in a pasture. The grazing stick includes a ruler for measuring forage height, grazing guidelines, and formulas for making immediate pasture management decisions. The tool can be used to determine pounds of forage per acre, the number of inches of forage available for grazing, track productivity changes, and even calculate the number of grazing days available in a pasture.

Click on video below for a grazing stick demonstration by Purdue University.