Stocking Rates in the Great Basin

A comment received yesterday on the forage supply and demand post said the government allows one cow per 20 acres but did not say where.

Most of the grazing discussion on Western Horse Watchers involves the Great Basin, characterized by a desert climate, because that’s where most of America’s wild horses are found.

The stocking rate in the comment, which works out to 50 cows per thousand acres, seems rather high for the Great Basin.  That’s equivalent to fifty wild horses per thousand acres—too high for year-round grazing in the high desert.

The highest stocking rate encountered on these pages is on the Virginia Range, ten wild horses per thousand acres.

Fractional stocking rates—less than one wild horse per thousand acres—are not uncommon in HMAs where large amounts of forage have been diverted to privately owned livestock.

The target stocking rate across all HMAs is one wild horse per thousand acres.

In an allotment, which is often divided into pastures, higher stocking rates may be allowed for shorter periods of time.  Pasture rotation prevents overgrazing, at least in theory.

But it doesn’t explain why so many allotments are in the Improve category.

RELATED: Assessing Stocking Rates, Allotment Categories Explained.

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