One of the easiest ways to make sure you are improving your rangeland or pasture is to match your stocking rate to your carrying capacity. That may seem like an obvious statement but is it amazing the number of producers I have talked to who say their neighbors don’t do this calculation and are often overstocked with devastating consequences for their landscape. Likewise, they also say that taking a Holistic Grazing Planning course helped them better determine their carrying capacity and learn how to more evenly utilize that forage to improve animal performance and land health.
HMI teaches a simple forage assessment process called the STAC Method (Sole, Toe, Ankle, Calf). You simply walk across various parts of your land using the Sole, Toe, Ankle, Calf, Thigh, or Pocket heights as a measure for forage productivity as measured in Animal Days per acre (ADA). For example, if your toe is covered by the forage along the length of your foot, then that equals 24 ADA. If only half your foot is covered then that equals 12 ADA. You then take at least 10 readings for various parts of your property to get a conservative average. the great thing about this technique is that the necessary residual to protect your resource base is already calculated into the formula. The challenge is to be conservative in your reading so you don’t overestimate your forage.
HMI has now made this process even simpler. We’ve created a spreadsheet to do all the math for you. Just enter in an “S” for sole (or whatever your reading is) and note whether it is 1, .75, .5, or .25 and it will calculate the ADA for you. Then you can enter your different readings to quickly determine the total Animal Days of forage you have. You can also enter your animal numbers to see if you are overstocked.