How many animals can my land support.

You need to be sure your land can sustain the number of animals you plan to run on it. There is a guide, based on a measurement which refers to the animals food consumption. This measurement is called a DSE or dry sheep equivalent.

The Dry Sheep Equivalent is an Australian-wide language used to describe the approximate carrying capacity of land. One DSE is equivalent to the amount of land and pasture you need to feed one dry sheep - (a two year old wether, weighing 45 kg) that can be sustained on each hectare all year round. The carrying capacity for all species is worked out on the basis of DSE.

The DSE system is only an approximation and the carrying capacity of your land will vary at different times of the year. Every block of ground is different depending on the level of management undertaken. Improved and fertilized pastures will influence the individual DSE. In Spring and Autumn when there is new green growth, your DSE rating might increase substantially.

The carrying capacity of your land is also influenced by whether you are breeding livestock. A lactating animal will need significantly more pasture than a dry animal. DSEs therefore are used to compare feed requirements of different classes of livestock as well as the carrying capacity of the land.

Type of livestock                 DSE rating

LOWLINE                                    6

500kg steer                                 8

Heifer                                         8

Cow with new calf                      18

Dry cow                                    10

Breeding ewe                            1.5

Lactating ewe                              3

2 year old wether                        1

Pony                                          8

Large horse                               10

Dairy goat                                   2

Cashmere goat                            1

Angora goat                             0.7

Deer                                        1.2

Alpaca (60-70 kg)                     0.8

Emu                                        0.7


You can calculate how many animals can be run on your land, depending on the type of pasture you have on your property.

        Pasture type                                                Rate per hectare(DSE)

  • Irrigated pasture (loams)                                          20 - 25 
  • Subterranean clover pasture on clays, loams                  10 
  • Subterranean clover pasture on wet sandy soils            6 - 10 
  • Subterranean clover pasture on dry sands                    2 - 5 
  • Non-clover pasture on dry sands                                 1 - 2 

You may wish to own livestock as an enterprise, or merely as pets. Whatever animals you acquire, and for what purpose, you will need to ensure their welfare and health. Before you acquire livestock, be sure you can provide all of the following:

    food and water;

    protection from predators;

    protection from diseases; and

    protection from inclement weather.

Please note that these stocking rates can vary depending on soil conditions, location and land management. Your shire will have access to a detailed guide for local conditions. Before you buy stock, check with your local council. There may be some restrictions as to which types of animals you may keep, and how many.



Carrying capacity the ability of a portion of land (such as a paddock) to support grazing stock without causing deterioration of stock or degradation of land. It reflects soil type, moisture availability, plant density and so on.

Class of stock refers to whether the animal is a calf, steer, heifer, cow or bull and wether or not they are dry, pregnant or lactating. This information is important when determining carrying capacity and stocking rates.

Dry cows cows that are not pregnant or lactating.

Rotational grazing the strategic movement of stock around paddocks so that feed is neither overgrazed nor undergrazed.

Stocking rate the rate at which animals are grazed in an area, normally expressed as DSE per hectare.

Supplementary feed feed provided to stock in addition to paddock grazing, when the paddock feed is lacking in either quality of quantity.

The above definitions are taken from Agricultural definitions for small landholders. This publication can be downloaded from the DAFWA website and will help you become familiar with much of the jargon used in the agricultural industry.