These goats are the GOATs in Christmas tree recycling

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NORTH ADAMS — As the time for holiday feasting winds down, the goats of Berkshire County are ready to take care of your leftovers.

Instead of tossing out Christmas trees with the trash, some residents are opting to bring them to farms as a seasonal treat for livestock.

"It's a great, environmentally friendly way to dispose of your trees," Stephen Murray, of Pine Cobble Farm, said Saturday.

Murray and his wife, Airaceli, moved to their Massachusetts Avenue home a year and a half ago and started the small family farm as a hobby. Last March, they rescued four male goats from slaughter at an auction and then acquired a female.

After reading about other farms feeding used Christmas trees to their goats, they thought it was a good idea.

"This is their first Christmas," Murray said, while his goats and two donkeys nibbled on hay and pine needles at the farm.

A family friend donated the first tree Friday, and the goats were savoring it over the weekend.

"I'm hoping we get five or six" trees, he said. "They seem to be taking their time on this."

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In his research, Murray learned that pine needles are high in vitamin D and have a deworming effect on the goats.

Because goats eat pretty much anything they find, they need to be dewormed often. A seasonal Christmas feast can supplement that, he said.

"They'll skip a whole field of grass and go to a pricker bush," he said. "Most bushes, they'll decimate in a day."

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The family's donkeys, Darla, 8, and her 4-month-old baby Hubie, also have been snacking on the pine needles.

Hubie is still dependent on his mother's milk but has been experimenting with food, he said.

The goats and donkeys at Pine Cobble are especially friendly because they are the family pets.

"Goats are like outdoor dogs," Murray said. "Especially our goats, because we had to bottle feed them. They think we're their parents."

One of them is going to be trained as a therapy goat to visit local nursing homes, he said.

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The Murrays also keep fowl.

"We were trying to get our kids off their phones," Murray said about their decision to start a small farm. "It's a lot of work."

Pine Cobble is far from the only farm in the Berkshires willing to dispose of Christmas trees.

On Church Street, five trees were stacked outside the enclosure at Mountain Girl Farm. Their farm goats have been recycling trees for years. On Saturday morning, several goats stood on a nearby hill and kept an eye on visitors.

Murray said that some people who've reached out to Pine Cobble have been hoping he could pick their trees up. He'd prefer they'd be dropped off.

Watching the goats run over to the trees to chow down is "part of the fun," he said.

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.


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