SHELBY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Now that Christmas is over, many are left with the chore of what to do with the once-festive tree that is now just so much junk.
While there are drop off sites provided by municipalities and counties, one option you may not have considered is feeding your tree to a goat.
Lewis Farms and Petting Zoo, located at 4180 M-20, is an attraction just off US-31 at New between Muskegon and Ludington.
“I am fourth-generation, so we’ve been farming here since the early 1900s,” said Scotts Lewis, whose 700-acre farm grows apples, cherries and peaches and for the last 15 years has been the site of a petting zoo and farm market that opens in the spring and lasts through Oct. 31.
“We’ve got your typical barnyard-type animals, we have miniature donkeys, miniature horses, chickens, ducks, goats and then we get into the exotics we have camels here we have wallabies, herd of fallow deer and we also have a pair of ring-tail lemurs,” says Jenny Ferels, a farm employee who helps get the word out.
With 40 goats in addition to the others, one thing is a constant: hungry animals – some more demanding than others.
So, the farm has developed an unexpected treat for the goats.
“They seem to really like the Christmas trees, we started throwing out our trees after Christmas way back when and found out how much they enjoyed it and how there was not much left after a couple days,” Lewis said.
“They asked the community for trees and we get them dropped off and it’s a great enrichment activity and treat for the goats all winter long,” said Ferel. “Give them a day or two and they will pick that tree clean.”
While eating a pine tree seems like a terrible idea, the goats seem to disagree.
“The constant in a goat’s mind is what are they going to eat next, so when they see a tree coming across the lot, they get very excited,” Ferels said. “When they get that tree, those are some happy goats. If goats could smile, when they get a tree, they’re smiling.”
It’s an idea that is catching on.
“It’s kind of become a tradition for families to bring their trees out to us,” Lewis said.
Another benefit is the pine masks other more “goat-y” odors.
In addition to being a tasty treat for the goats, it’s good for them, too.
“They actually get vitamin C, the trees are rich in vitamin C and it’s a natural de-wormer, too,” Ferel said.
It also seems to improve goat attitudes.
“I think as much as anything, it’s important for the goats because it’s an enrichment program, we feed them morning and night but if we can throw some Christmas trees out there, gives them something to do to get that boredom out of the way,” said Lewis. “The fun of dropping off your tree and thinking it’s going to last beyond your enjoyment in the corner of the living room, it’s going to make the day of some very happy goats.”
“Especially during the off-season when they don’t see as many people and they need a little bit of encouragement to come out and run around and stay engaged,” Ferels said.
It’s also environmentally friendly.
“We use every part of the tree from the goats eating the needles and the bark and we use wood chips all over the farm so we’re using mulch that way too,” Ferels said
Lewis says it is an important component for his farm which grows apples, cherries and peaches – something he calls “agri-tainment.”
They get trees from around the community and a few leftovers from tree farms, but they can always use more.
They need to make sure the ornaments and tinsel is off the tree and they can’t use trees treated with chemicals or artificially colored.
“We keep the drop spot out in our main parking lot, the public doesn’t get to drop the right into our pen because we need to make sure and carefully inspect every tree,” Ferels said.