The grazing intensity study at the Central Grasslands Research Center is in its eleventh year. The objectives are: to determine the optimum cattle stocking rate without damaging the rangeland resource; to develop a model to predict forage production in the spring so that livestock producers can better plan their forage requirements for the year; and to develop techniques to inventory rangeland and monitor utilization, range trend and range condition. Instruments for estimating forage production are being tested. Plant species which appear to be favored by no grazing or light grazing (decreasers), plant species which appear to be favored by moderate grazing (increaser-decreasers) and species which appear to be favored by heavy grazing (increasers) have been identified. This last group includes some species not found on ungrazed range (invaders).
This study attempts to determine an economic optimum stocking rate that is sustainable over the long run. Results so far indicate that grazing at a higher stocking rate than is normally recommended may result in a higher average annual return but it is accompanied by higher volatility. Profits are greater when prices are favorable and losses are greater when prices are not favorable. In addition rangeland deterioration is occurring at the higher stocking rates and the higher average annual returns may not be sustainable.