From a technical perspective, to estimate carrying capacity/stocking rate for a paticualr piece of property you first have to answer the question of what is the forage production rate of the property. From that you can determine how many AUs (animal units) the property will support. The higher the AU numbers the fewer the number of cattle the property can support. As I recall, 1 AU is defined as a 500lb steer or non breeding heffier gaining 1lb/day, or an 850lb steer gaining 0.25lb/day. Actually there are tables defining the whole range of AU definations for cattle. The defined AUs, for breeding stock such as bulls, pregnant cows, or wet cows are defined for maintenance weights as opposed to gains. A 1050lb bull has an AU of about 2.
There used to be a web site with some good papers on this subject. I'll see if I can find it again and post a link to it. It also discussed some good appraoches for flexiable stocking rates to accomidate drought conditions.
I understand about wanting to know what other peoples real life experiances are in a certain area. I wanted to know the same thing when I started. I quickly discovered that unless I was just taking a poll, the question was to general. The forage productivity of land can vary greatly over small areas. I know of pastures where the forage productivity varies by 5 to 1 across 50 acres or less. I'll bet that the 2 state area you refered to has at least that amount of variance across it. Given that, and the fact that what you put on it can vary by up to about 3 to 1 in forage grazing requirements gives a varaibility in stocking rates of up to 15 to 1!
Sorry if I seem to be ranting on this subject but the first time I realized the varaibility of the stocking rate issue it became clear to me that it was something I had to determine for myself given the paticulars of my operation and property. Even if I was just taking a poll the results would almost be useless unless I knew the context of the responses.
OK let me "reword". What is the best a person could expect in these areas, given plenty of capitol to make improvements, and provided the land was average or better. I'm building a budget to farm in that area, moving my operation from East Central Florida. My current budget uses 2 acres per pair, with $60/pair budgeted for feed/hay/mineral annually. I only spend $5/pair for that category now. I don't hay in Florida because it isn't necessary, so I would have to buy hay, or hire someone to make it. Thus the $60/head set aside. Frankly, on a fairly small scale, I think eventually I could do better than two acres/pair with an intensive rotational system, and hay in the winter. How bad does Winter effect forages in SE Alabama area?
Speaking of stocking rates, there are some urban/suburban legislators in the South Carolina legislature talking about introducing a bill next year to regulate stocking rates in order to "help the enviroment". If that happens I might have to go "Waco" or "Ruby Ridge" on them.
Did they mention what studies, or parts of the industry they were basing the decession on? I've occasionly heard of regs that try to limit head count at feedyards based on environmental claims, or, try to prevent a rancher from turning his property into a commercial feed yard.
These people backing this bill were not concerned with feedyards (there are none here in SC), but with pastures that are overgrazed . They were concerned that these overgrazed pastures would have a rapid runoff of fertilizer and manure into the creeks during rapid rainfalls. South Carolina is becoming more of an "eastern" state than a "Southern" state due to all the legal immigrants from north of the border.