Browsing intensity influences a plant’s response to herbivory. Plants face a trade-off between investment in the production of secondary compounds and investment in growth. To elucidate this trade-off, we simulated four browsing intensities (0%, 50%, 75% and 100%) on mopane saplings, Colophospermum mopane (J.Kirk ex Benth.) J.Léonard, in a greenhouse experiment. This showed that, with increasing defoliation intensity, plants change their investment strategy. At intermediate levels of defoliation (50%), mopane saplings increased the synthesis of condensed tannins, so that tannin concentrations followed a hump-shaped relation with defoliation intensity, with significantly higher tannin concentration at intermediate defoliation levels. When defoliated heavily (75% and 100%), tannin concentrations dropped, and plants were carbon stressed as indicated by a reduced growth rate of the stem diameter, and leaf production and mean individual leaf mass were reduced. This suggests that, at intermediate defoliation intensity, the strategy of the plants is towards induced chemical defences. With increasing defoliation, the relative costs of the secondary metabolite synthesis become too high, and therefore, the plants change their growing strategy. Hence, browsers should be able to benefit from earlier browsing by either adopting a low or a relatively high browsing pressure.