Almost all signs of Christmas have been packed away. All the ornaments are stored away in the attic, the window lights put away, the baby Jesus carefully wrapped in the Christmas creche for another year, and all the kids have gone back to college. Only a small pile of pine needles, sprinkled on the porch, remains of the Christmas decor at our old farmhouse. In the sheep paddock, the recycled Christmas tree lays, stripped bare of needles and bark.
Only nubs of needles remain and clumps of wool where the sheep rubbed against it while nibbling. As we tossed the tree over the fence a couple of weeks ago, my daughter commented that it seemed only fitting that a tree have the honor of being fully used after having been cut down from its stand in the forest. We decided it was an end that any little Christmas tree would be proud of.
A few years ago, I did research on the benefits of pine for small ruminants. Though I did not find anything conclusive, I did find several sources that suggested that conifers, when eaten on a daily basis, were helpful in preventative measures against internal parasite infestations. Our Gotland sheep ravenously attacked our tree this year, eating both needles and bark.
When feeding conifers to sheep:
- be sure the tree has no pesticides sprayed on it.
- make sure all ornaments have been removed.
- studies show that Ponderosa pine can be harmful when eaten by livestock.