Brush Control

 Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers

Knowledge Nuggets

  • Livestock grazing of woody species is an inexpensive and effective brush management tool when understood and managed accordingly.
  • During the first half of the growing season, cattle graze aspen poplar, wild rose, wild raspberry, wild gooseberry, saskatoon, choke cherry, and pin cherry as a small part of their diet. Carefully planned and executed rotational grazing systems can sustain this grass-woody plant forage resource for many years.
  • Prescribed burning is an inexpensive and effective method of managing brush when combined with appropriate grazing practices. The problem with prescribed fire is the risk of escape due to abnormal weather events or an inexperienced crew, as well as unfavorable government policies.
  • A single prescribed burn can top-kill an aspen forest. Subsequent short duration, high density grazing can be used to manage young woody sprouts as forage. It also enables grasses and broad-leaved herbs to establish. The shrub-grassland that soon develops produces five to ten times more forage than the original aspen forest.
  • Silverberry (wolf willow) is a "good" shrub that fixes nitrogen in the soil and allows enough light through the canopy to permit grass growth. The woody stems act as a partial barrier to grazing enabling greater grass productivity and plant diversity under the shrubs than in open grassland.
  • Western snowberry (buckbrush) is a tough shrub that out-competes grasses for light, grows in thick clumps, and is unpalatable to cattle for most of the year. A mid-August mowing causing fall frost damage to the young re-sprouts, followed the next spring by a herbicide application will kill snowberry stems enabling the production of more forages.
  • A single brush control treatment is usually effective for only a few years. Piece-meal applications are not recommended regardless of whether it is bulldozing, cutting, mowing, disking, burning, or herbicides. Rather a brush management program that includes repeated treatments and is included within a forage production and grazing plan will yield more success in managing brush and providing forage for grazing animals and wildlife.
  • Some brush cover is recommended for all grazing lands in the aspen parkland. Brush traps snow in winter, provides shelter for livestock, and habitat for nesting and feeding birds and other wildlife.
  • Sometimes aspen is a commercially important tree in the boreal forest. Clear-cut logging of commercial aspen stands is followed by a prolific growth of young aspen sprouts. In spring and early summer only light grazing can be tolerated by the current annual growth of these young aspen suckers because the stems are so tender and cattle prefer them as forage.
  • In spring, new growth of aspen can be easily sheared by cattle but by August the young aspen stems have hardened so much that cattle can rarely break them. In late summer the cattle strip and eat the leaves. Thus, by August moderate levels of cattle grazing can be tolerated in newly establishing aspen stands.
These Knowledge Nuggets have been provided courtesy of Arthur W. Bailey, Professor Emeritus, Rangeland Ecology and Management, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta. Email:

Fact Sheets

Aspen Sucker Control With A Robot Sprayer

Aspen Sucker Control With Roundup

Bark Scrape To Manage Aspen 1994

Bark Scrape To Manage Aspen 1995

Bark Scrape To Manage Aspen 1996

Construction Plans For A Cat-Rail Bark Scraper

Construction Plans For A Motor-Grader Blade Bark Scraper

Control Of Aspen in Fencelines

Grassland Condition After Brush Control - pdf format only

Manage Aspen For Pasture And Wildlife Habitat

Managing Western Snowberry and Trembling Aspen on Native Grasslands - pdf format only

Prescription Grazing, a Best Management Practice for Aspen

The Best Time To Control Aspen And Balsam Suckers

Trembling Aspen: Comparative Strategies to Manage Aspen in Canada's Parkland - available in pdf format only

Increase Forage Yield After Brush Control in Aspen Parkland

Western Snowberry Control - available in PDF format only

Wiper Applied Herbicides To Manage Brush 94

Wiper Applied Herbicides To Manage Brush 95

Wiper Applied Herbicides To Manage Brush 96

Workshop on Integrated Brush Management - Final Report

(Atelier sur la gestion integree des bourssailles - Rapport Final)

Research Papers

Above- and below-ground effects from alfalfa and marsh reedgrass on aspen seedlings - available in PDF format only

Brush Management Research on the Canadian Northern Great Plains and Adjacent Boreal Forest.

Competition and facilitation in mixtures of aspen seedlings, alfalfa, and marsh reed grass - available in PDF format only

Prescribed Grazing, a Best Management Practice for Aspen

Tolerance of annual forage legumes to herbicides in Alberta - available in PDF format only
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Janet Fletcher.
This information published to the web on December 4, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on March 2, 2017.

Home | Contact Us | Privacy Statement
The user agrees to the terms and conditions set out in the Copyright and Disclaimer © 2003 - 2018 Her Majesty the Queen