• How many stock should you carry on your block? This is not an easy question to answer. This is because the feed supply varies from day to day in quality and quantity, and so do the nutritional needs of the stock.

    The old method (still in use on sheep and beef farms) is to use Livestock Units (LSU) or Ewe Equivalents (EE). The idea here is to have these standards against which all other classes of stock can be compared.

    The base for comparison is a 40kg breeding ewe suckling one lamb. It is assumed that they require 520 kg of Dry Matter of feed to feed then during the year.
  • Then for a 5kg change in ewe liveweight, or a 20% change in lambing percentage, the LSU changes by 0.1 LSU.
  • The "carrying capacity" of a farm is the measure of how many LSU can be carried on the farm. It’s calculated on 30th June each year.
  • The carrying capacity is basically how many stock (LSU) you can feed during the winter. This is when pasture growth is slowest, and when you stock will not have lambed or calved so only require "maintenance" feed.
  • This approach also assumes that if you can feed the basic breeding stock correctly in June, you won’t have any problems at any other times. Don’t believe this!
  • The tables below show how to convert different classes of stock to Live Stock Units or Ewe Equivalents.
  • NOTE. These tables cannot tell you how many LSU you should run on your block. This depends on all sorts of things like soil, rainfall, soil fertility and so on.
  • Start off by asking a neighbour or consultant what they are running or what is the district average. Then it’s a trial and error exercise - and this will depend greatly on the type of season.

The key to avoiding problems is always to have a contingency plan:

  • Have hay in the barn.
  • Have wrapped or pit silage.
  • Buy some maize silage.
  • Keep some deferred pasture (standing hay or pasture not eaten).
  • Graze some stock off the farm.
  • Sell some stock before the feed shortage.
  Weight at mating (kg) (lambs weaned) Production Units  Livestock Units
Ewe 45 90% 0.85  
Ewe 55 100% 1.00  
Ewe 65 130% 1.25 
Hogget (pre-winter weight) 30 Slow 0.70
Hogget (pre-winter weight) 40 Medium growth-rate 1.00
Hogget (pre-winter weight) 50 Fast growth-rate  1.20
Ram 75 0.80    
Beef Cattle
Weight Breeding (kg) Calves Weaned Livestock Units 
Cow 340-400 68% 3.70
Cow 400 83% 4.40 
Cow 450 88% 5.30
Cow 500 90% 6.30
Weaners 135-270  3.50
Heifers, steers, bulls 200-400  Slow growing 3.70 
Heifers, steers, bulls  200-465  Rapid growing  4.60
Heifers, steers, bulls  350-500  Rapid growing  4.70 
Heifers, steers, bulls  600 6.00
Dairy Cattle 
Weight (kg) Fat yield (kg) Milk solids livestock Units
Cow 350 140 244 6.10  
Cow 400 160 278  6.80
Cow 400 180 313 7.30
Cow 450 200 348 8.00 
Jersey yearling  180-320 3.50  
Friesian yearling  225-430  —  4.50  
Jersey calf  25-180  2.00  
Friesian calf   35-225   2.50 
Horses - On Pasture-only Diet
Livestock Units
Pony in light work or turned out  6
Pony broodmare and foal 
Small hack in light work (up to 15.2 hands) 8
Small hack broodmare and foal  10
Large hack in light work (500-600 kg) 12
Yearling thoroughbreds  12
Large hack broodmare and foal   14