Your Christmas tree could make hungry goats ‘do a little happy dance’

Your Christmas tree could make hungry goats ‘do a little happy dance’

by Sue Jones
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Some Ontario farmers are finding ways to upcycle Christmas trees. Rodrigues Farms in Ayr and Top Meat Market in Ariss will use them to feed their livestock, specifically, their goats.

Christmas Trees And Goats

Leslie Zinger with Top Market Meats has been collecting Christmas trees at her Ontario farm for about eight years. She said goats that eat the trees can get digestive benefits. (Submitted by: Leslie Zinger)

As the holidays have come and gone, and Christmas trees start to drop their needles, Ontario farmers are getting crafty and upcycling Christmas trees.

They say the evergreens become a tasty treat for their livestock, once they’ve outlived their lifespan in our living rooms. 

Both Top Market Meats in Ariss and Rodrigues Farm in Ayr feed discarded evergreens to their goats. 

“It’s good for their digestive system,” said Leslie Zinger, of Top Market Meats. “The acidity in the pine is a good natural cleaner. It’s kind of like humans with fibre.”

Zinger normally gets about 250 trees a year. She said some go to the sheep, the pigs and chicken coops, but the goats do most of the eating. 

She said the trees are a nice treat for the goats, who nibble them clean, eating the needles, branches and bark.

Goats Eating Christmas Trees

Zinger says most of the trees go to their 40 goats. Once they nibble the trees clean, the leftover wood is used to heat their barn. (Submitted by: Leslie Zinger)

“Goats eat everything — it is a true statement,” Zinger laughed. “They get really excited when they see the trees. They kind of do a little happy dance and jump around.”

This year, Zinger said her farm will be collecting trees from Jan. 1 to 15.

She said they give the donations a final look to ensure no hooks or plastics are left over before they give them to the animals. Once the trees are nibbled clean, they use the leftover wood to heat the barn.

Trees have ‘necessary nutrients,’ farmer says

Sarah Rodrigues has a much smaller farm in Ayr, but brought on a few more goats this year and hopes more tree donations will roll in too.

“We have a part-time farm operation and have a small herd of goats, about eight goats, that I raise for dairy and show goats,” she said, in addition to the chickens and beehives on their farm.

Rodrigues said her farm received about a dozen trees last year and she’s already seen a few dropoffs since Boxing Day. Rodrigues also said she feeds the goats evergreens to keep them healthy over the winter months.

“It provides a lot of those necessary nutrients that they need in the winter when they’re maybe not getting enough from pasture,” she said.

Rodrigues hopes people will keep their local farmers in mind when disposing of their Christmas trees.

Rodrigues Farm Goats

Sarah Rodrigues operates a smaller farm in Ayr and hopes to get more Christmas trees this year to make up for the goats they added. Her farm went from having five goats to eight. (Submitted by: Sarah Rodrigues)

“I would encourage people to look for a local farm near them that is able to take them because I know lots of farmers are asking for them for the same reason we are,” she said.

Waterloo region tree collection

The Region of Waterloo makes compost out of trees it picks up during its two-week Christmas tree collection in January. 

That’s why it’s vital people remove lights, ornaments and the stand before disposal, said Kathleen Barsoum, who’s with Region of Waterloo Waste Management. She also asks that people not wrap trees in plastic.

Barsoum said people should also keep in mind that trees taller than six feet (about two metres] need to be cut in half so they fit in the back of the garbage truck.  Artificial trees are not part of the Christmas tree collection program and are collected as a bulky item on garbage day, she said.

Anything that is picked up after that “will be collected as garbage unfortunately,” said Barsoum.

She suggested keeping the tree if you have space, until yard collection starts again.

“A number of residents do hold on to their trees because they use them in their back property as bird feeders or nests.”

Christmas tree collection starts Jan. 3 on regular collection day, and ends Jan. 14.

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