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Old Christmas Trees​: Healthy Snack for Some Lucky Wisconsin Goats

Ben Robel
Goats snacking on discarded Christmas trees.

Not sure what to do with your Christmas tree? One Wisconsin man has been feeding them to his herd of goats.

Not only does the practice advance “recycling,” it’s a vitamin-filled treat for the animal.

Ben Robel of Richland County in western Wisconsin goes around to different towns and local dumps and picks up loads of Christmas trees and stockpiles them at his house.

Credit Ben Robel
The trees are not the goats main food source – it’s just a little supplement.

“(We) feed out one or two pine trees a day and let the goats nibble on them,” he says. “It’s not their main food source – it’s just a little supplement, a little different nutritional value in the trees versus the hay.”

The goats munch the tips of the branches, devour the needles, and finally move on to the bark. “It’ll look like an orange or yellowish tree because there will be no green needles and all of the bark will be pulled off,” he says.

Robel has learned lessons along the way. Once he picked up a batch of trees that had been painted. “(The trees were) spray painted green to make them look greener like a Christmas tree, and the goats wouldn’t touch those,” he says.

Credit Ben Robel

Robel says if his goats come upon bits of wrapping paper, tinsel or the occasional ornament – they sniff it and move on. “For the most part, they know what to eat and what not to eat,” he says.

In case you’re wondering what Robel does for a living, and why he knows goats so well, he launched a business in 2008 called Vegetation Solutions. “(Its) a company that uses livestock to manage vegetation – unwanted vegetation,” he says.

At the beginning, Robel’s livestock consisted of two goats. Since then, his team has multiplied many times over.

During the non-frozen months, Robel transports his goats around Wisconsin and neighboring states to manicure landscapes the natural way. “This is a total grass-based operation. Animals have to forage and find their own food and grow their own kids and make their own milk,” he says. “I’m not out their giving them grain. I’m looking for an animal that’s works for me instead of me working for it.”

Robel paints a rather heartless scenario, but in truth, he pampers his herd a wee bit. He hauls in mounds of hay for the goats’ winter diet. “We have hay out in the pastures too and we spread that around. It’s a spot to bed on. They like lay on the hay versus lying directly on the snow,” he says.

And, as you’ve already heard, he brings them truckloads of Christmas trees.