Pasture management in AZ... for sheep? & Grazing recovery?


Loving the herd life
Aug 26, 2020
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So I haven't done sheep yet. But I'd like to someday.

But I wanted to check how well your pastures can recover and grow for places like Arizona? Normally places that are wet can stack the sheep up pretty well for pastures in areas of the US with lots of water. And it seems like a lot of figures on sheep per acre are based on green beautiful pastures like this.

If you've ever been to NM, AZ, southern UT, or Nevada its like really dry and sagebrush. Not hardly any water. (I guess parts of western Texas might fit into this also.)

I don't have a good idea it takes for these types of dry farming areas (is that putting it too positive?) can recover from grazing? Is it possible to go into the details of this?

If 1 acre can normally support 5 sheep in a water rich grassland, then a dry farming area, how many additional acres and rotations do you have to do to make up for this? And do you have to re-work and redo wells? Are your wells able to support this? (And stuff like sage brushy areas would grow slower from the plant species being different not just water issues.)

How do you people in these areas work this?

I suppose you can do more purchased feed, although I don't like to do that if possible.

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Loving the herd life
Jun 9, 2016
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Roanoke Area, Virginia
Try to find how many acres you need per animal unit in your area. 1 Animal unit is 1 mare and her foal, 1 cow and her calf but it is also I believe 6 ewes and their lambs. This will tell you for every 6 sheep you need x number of acres.

Where I live the general rule of thumb is 2 acres per animal unit. I have 10 acres, so I can have 5 horses or 30 sheep.


Herd Master
May 9, 2017
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Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
And it seems like a lot of figures on sheep per acre
As Kusanar said... you are asking about animal units per acre... or AU.

There is no such thing as a universal AU per acre... it has to be calculated for your specific location.

Extension offices are located all over the US, and they have a wealth of FREE info.

They will have soil charts for you area, that will have the entire county mapped. Each specific soil area will have a "general AU per acre".

BUT, that is just a ball park since erosion and overgrazing can have dramatically changed the actual forage on that spot of land.

But again... your friendly extension agent, paid by the US government (so... our taxes) will help you figure out how to determine the AU of your specific bit of land, so that you can stock appropriately.

Do note though... that we are dealing with nature in all her glory... a wet year is different from a dry year in regards to carrying capacity...

So, you have to decide if you in general will UNDER-stock.. so in dry years you are still fine and will not damage the land... Or decide if you will stock at FULL capacity, so fully utilize your land. If you stock at maximum capacity you have to have a plan for drought years.. either sell off excess (when prices will be at a low), or pen them in a sacrificial area (usually the barn paddock) and feed lots of hay.