The holidays are over and now it's time to curl up and wait until the sun comes back and the snow goes away, but what about the tree? Some take that live Christmas tree they cut down for the holiday and leave it outside for the birds for a couple of months or drive it down to the recycling center in town, but Reno, Nevada is doing something completely different - they use goats.
Goats will eat pretty much anything, from blue jeans to filet mignon, however it didn't occur to goat owner Vince Thomas that Christmas trees can and should be on the menu. Thomas, a long time volunteer firefighter, launched a new program with Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District to help use his herd of 40 goats to recycle Christmas trees to help reduce the risk of all that dried pine catching flame in the dumps of Reno.
People in Reno think dumping pine trees in dumps is fine because they will decompose, right? Well in more temperate climates with rain and moisture, that is true. However, in the deserts of Reno, pine trees as well as their mulch just gets drier and drier until it becomes a serious fire hazard.
His family-owned business, Goat Grazers, has been used in the past to help eat down areas with fire-prone weeds along the Sierra's eastern front, but after experimenting with his own tree, he found the goats will strip a pine down to the skeleton.
With some animals like cattle, pine needles can cause miscarriages, but Vince Thomas did his due diligence and found for goats, pine needles are a natural dewormer and high in vitamin C. After the trees are stripped bare, they are mulched and the mulch is then buried to help assure it does decompose properly.