A few trees in a pasture can be beneficial, but tough, fast-growing eastern red cedar trees can become a serious nuisance in many areas. University of Nebraska agronomist Bruce Anderson, PhD, says that left uncontrolled, the trees reduce forage production, make animal handling difficult and encourage pastures to shift from warm-season to cool-season grasses.

Anderson says several control measures can help, including herbicides, cutting and fire. Each method has advantages but also weaknesses. Fire, Anderson says, is by far the least expensive, provided it can be used safely. But he adds that the effectiveness of fire declines as trees get large.

Herbicides, such as Tordon 22K, applied directly to the soil beneath the tree work very well but are time consuming and more expensive. Cutting could be less expensive but is labor-intensive and time consuming, especially if cut trees need to be removed, Anderson says.

Research in Nebraska, he says, shows that a combination of control measures can take advantage of the strengths of each method while overcoming most disadvantages. Producers can first use prescribed burns to kill many smaller trees and to weaken or improve accessibility to larger trees. Repeating the burn every four to eight years can help prevent new infestations.

After burning, Anderson says it might be best to wait a year before following up with herbicides or cutting because some trees that first appear to survive the fire eventually will die. This reduces labor and expense by allowing producers to target surviving trees for cutting or herbicide treatment.