Original Articles

Perspective article: The evolving use of stocking rate indices currently based on animal number and type in semi‐arid heterogeneous landscapes and complex land‐use systems

Published in: African Journal of Range & Forage Science
Volume 15, issue 3, 1998 , pages: 117–127
DOI: 10.1080/10220119.1998.9647953
Author(s): M.J.S. Peel, Republic of South Africa, H. Biggs, Republic of South Africa, P.J.K. ZachariasDepartment of Range and Forage Resources, Republic of South Africa


Methods of determining stocking rate based on metabolic mass, animal type and biomass are reviewed in the context of equilibrial/disequilibrial paradigms. In South Africa, the calculation of ‘carrying capacity’ is based on conversion of animal species to metabolic mass equivalents. This assumes homogenous systems that tend to some point of equilibrium. It is applied widely in commercial livestock systems involving one or two species. Examination of a case study in the Lowveld of the Northern Province, South Africa, showed that the determination of ‘stocking rate’ in this multi‐herbivore and heterogenous system, overestimated the ‘carrying capacity’ of the reserve over 20 years. The actual animal numbers in the system dropped by approximately 4 000 kg km−2 after a drought in the early period of the study into the bounds as determined by a model incorporating rainfall and animal biomass. An approach to determine stocking density using animal type, biomass, rainfall and vegetation parameters is suggested. The development of this as a coarse‐scale (regional) and ranch‐specific model to cover a range of scales and heterogeneity in key resources is advocated.

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