Crop-livestock integration (CLI) is a significant practice for livestock grazing systems in alpine rangelands. It offers the potential to achieve sustainable crop and livestock production. However, the separate crop and livestock systems that exist today have led to issues of intensive agriculture, rangeland degradation and forage shortage in the Tibetan Plateau. Developing crop-livestock integration through sown pastures can be an effective way to lift pasture productivity and improve livestock production. Thus, to explore the potential for integrating crop and livestock production in alpine grazing systems, an assessment of potential forage and livestock production using multiple datasets was carried out in Burang County, China. Results showed the marginal land potentially available for sown pastures was about 560 ha, located mostly in the Burang township of the Karnali basin. Accumulated temperature was the dominant limiting factor for establishing sown pastures, therefore cold tolerance of forage species and growth period should be taken into consideration. Furthermore, the number of livestock decreased during the period 2012–2016; yet often, the number of livestock in rangeland landscape was greater than that in agro-pastoral landscape. The average number of livestock was about 110000 standard sheep units (SU) in the study area, but forage from sown pastures and crop residues could potentially feed about 11000 SU, accounting for 50% of the livestock population in the Karnali basin. We found that integrating crop and forage production could fill feed gaps for grazing systems, particularly in the agro-pastoral landscape of the Karnali basin. The results of this study provide scientific support to guide future forage production and to promote further crop and livestock integration in Burang County.
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