Massachusetts Farmers Are Feeding Christmas Trees to Goats and Sheep

Residents of Rehoboth, Massachusetts, can recycle their Christmas trees this year by turning the festive decoration into animal food.

Tish Vadnais, co-owner of Homestead Farm in the town, appealed on social media this week for anyone who is disposing of an unwanted clean tree to consider dropping it off at her business address, where it will be used as food for her goats and sheep.

The Homestead Farm's Facebook post on Monday read: "As long as it has no sprays, tinsel or ornaments, our animals will benefit from your unwanted tree."

Speaking to WJAR, Vadnais said there are a "lot of health benefits" for the animals that ingest the trees, noting they contain vitamin C and are "basically a natural wormer."

She said: "They eat it right down to the bark. A nice, moist tree makes for better feed for them. They typically won't eat a real dried out tree." And while they are on the menu for the goats and sheep, the trees can be used for more than a unique meal.

"We'll chip them—and it becomes bedding and footing for our animals in the paddocks. So, it's just all-around recycling of Christmas trees," Vadnais added.

Vadnais told WJAR the business had been feeding animals Christmas trees for several years but received extra attention this week by posting the appeal on Facebook. "We've been doing it for a number of years. This farm has been here since the early 70s and we've been pretty much feeding Christmas trees since I can remember," she said.

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It's a tradition that extends far outside of Massachusetts, however, with animals in farms and zoos worldwide given trees after the holiday season.

Last December, the owner of a Canada-based "goat yoga" business hit local headlines after saying she would welcome Christmas tree donations to feed her animals.

"They pounce on it, and they'll eat it within minutes... it's a quick process. They're food motivated animals. So whenever food is on the scene, they lose their minds," Susan Ashley, owner of Laughing Goat Yoga Studio in Thorndale, Ontario, told CBC.

In January 2019, The Associated Press reported a farm owner in New Jersey, Tami Fulcher Millaway, offered to collect her neighbors' trees to feed them to her animals for the second year running, noting her goats ate up about 50 trees the year prior.

"It takes them a day or two, or sometimes just hours. They eat the bark and everything," "I had a 14-foot tree last year. They stripped it down. It took them three hours," Millaway told the AP, adding some people who donated wanted to watch the feeding.

In the German city of Stuttgart, Wilhelma Zoo attracted local media attention in 2018 for receiving up to 200 surplus trees for its animals, being used for animal food, entertainment and park decorations.

"For the elephants, a pine tree is not much of a treat," a spokesperson said, adding they do tend to play with the trees. "Other animals, like big cats, find the scent exciting."

Christmas trees
Christmas trees stand ready for sale at the Christmas tree farm of farmer Heiko Tacke in Halver, western Germany on December 9, 2020. INA FASSBENDER/AFP/Getty