Preserving the Environment

Why Are Goats Snacking on Discarded Christmas Decorations?

January 8, 2015
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Why Are Goats Snacking on Discarded Christmas Decorations?
One fire department in California has enlisted goats to help dispose of discarded Christmas trees. Win McNamee/Getty Images
And why is it good for the environment?

What happens to all those Christmas trees once the holiday is over?

When most of us take down our decorations, that once well-loved tree gets deposited at the end of the driveway awaiting pickup by the trash man. Until this year, that is.

That’s because a group in Truckee, Calif., found a way to recycle them: Goats.

Although it sounds a little strange, the Truckee Meadows Fire Prevention District has enlisted these animals to help dispose of the trees to make the district a little safer. Provided by Goat Grazers (a family-owned goat herding business), 40 goats will eat the needles off the trees, leaving only the valuable bark.

“All the trees will be taken to the Truckee Meadows fire station in Washoe Valley, which has a lot more room for all them,” Truckee Meadows Fire Prevention volunteer fireman Vince Thomas explains to the Reno-Gazette Journal. “Then, we’ll toss them over the fence and let the goats have at them.”

Christmas tree pine needs are highly flammable and, when left in landfills or used as mulch in parks or in the forests of California, there’s an increased risk of forest fires. But, with the assistance of the goats, the pine needles are disposed of and then the bark can be mulched and safely used in parks.

J.Merriam is the communications manager for Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful. Her group also runs a tree-recycling program and notes how important it is to properly dispose of trees.

“A lot of people dump it out on the desert and that’s really a problem because people think it’s a natural thing and it will decompose,” Merriman says. “But because we’re out in the desert, they don’t decompose, it will just get drier and drier and it really becomes a serious fire hazard.”

This isn’t a one-way relationship, though, as the goats receive benefits as well. First, pine needles are a natural de-wormer, which will help with the goats’ digestion. Additionally, needles are packed with vitamin C.

The program began on December 26 and continues through January 11 with multiple drop-off sites in the area.

Maybe Santa should think of trading in his reindeer for some goats?

MORE: 5 Ways Californians Have Changed Their Behavior Because of Drought

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