There is concern over the decline of aspen and the lack of successful regeneration due to excessive browsing of aspen suckers by cattle and other wild and domestic ungulates. We conducted a 2-yr study on Lassen National Forest, California, to aid development of cattle grazing strategies to enhance aspen regeneration. We evaluated seasonal biomass, nutritional quality, and utilization by cattle of aspen suckers, aspen herbaceous understory vegetation, and meadow herbaceous vegetation within six aspen–meadow complexes. Aspen suckers had greater nutritional quality compared to aspen understory and meadow vegetation regardless of season or year. Nutritional quality declined with season in all three vegetation types. Early-growing season foraging by cattle focused on meadow and aspen understory vegetation. Mid-growing season decreases in meadow and aspen understory nutritional quality coincided with a marked increase in utilization of aspen suckers. By late-growing season, utilization on aspen suckers was significantly greater than aspen understory or meadow vegetation. Managers can use early-growing season grazing to reduce aspen consumption by cattle, set stocking rates so that adequate herbaceous vegetation is available throughout the growing season, provide nutritional supplements to reduce demand for nutritious aspen suckers, construct protective fencing, and implement grazing systems that insure years with mid- and late-growing season rest from heavy browsing.
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