Efforts to regenerate oaks on California’s oak woodlands often must address how to establish seedlings in areas grazed by livestock. Research indicates that damage to young oak seedlings from cattle varies by season, with less damage during the winter when deciduous oaks do not have leaves. While exclusion of cattle from planted areas does result in reduced damage, the buildup of thatch or dead grass following livestock removal can promote an increase in damage to seedlings from voles (Microtus californicus) and grasshoppers (Melanoplus devastator). The most effective method we have found to simultaneously grow oaks and cattle incorporates individual tree protectors called “treeshelters.” Limited research suggests that treeshelters protect seedlings from damage from most animals, including livestock. Cattle will browse the shoots of seedlings growing up and out the tops of 1.3-m (4-ft) shelters, but that damage is rarely lethal and has relatively little long-term impact to oak seedling establishment. Unprotected oak saplings appear relatively resistant to cattle damage if they are at least 2 m (6.5 ft) tall. Together, these findings suggest that cattle and oaks can be raised simultaneously if sufficient protective measures are taken to prevent damage to young plants.
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