For the goats at Ran-Cher Acres near Aylesford, this time of year usually sees an occasional discarded Christmas tree tossed in their pens as a treat.
Randy and Cheryl Hiltz and their daughter Sara, who run the family goat farm on Canaan Road in Morristown, have been accepting Christmas trees from friends and neighbours for a number of years as a treat for the goats. But this year it's about more than that.
The wet spring delayed crops and reduced hay cuttings for some farmers, and then hurricane Dorian flattened feed corn fields, making reserves of hay for cattle even more important. That has meant those farmers have less hay to provide to the Hiltz operation, which would normally have enough feed on hand to last until June.
Instead, they have about half of what they normally would.
Cheryl said the Christmas trees are a way to supplement the feed for the goats and provide them some more nutrients, but the hay shortage means the trees could be replacing some food instead.
Goats normally need to get about 20 per cent of their food through grazing and the rest through browsing, which is eating leaves, shoots, or fruits of woody plants such as shrubs.
With Christmas trees, the goats eat the twigs, needles and bark.
Normally the farm gets a dozen or so trees from the community and friends, Sara said.
“Some people will drop them at the end of the driveway, but we haven't really had any this year.”
They put out a Facebook post looking for people to drop trees off at a local hall, but none have been collected yet.
The goats are big fans.
“They go crazy over them,” Sara said.
And the barn smells “wonderful,” Cheryl adds.
She said one farmer may have hay to sell in March once he knows that he had enough to see him through the winter. That's around the time they think their feed will run out. They have already gone to more suppliers than they have in the past for bales.
Straw is also in short supply, meaning the Hiltzes have had to buy wood shavings instead. But even those sources are drying up.
One farmer she knows has moved on to peat moss to lay down for beds.
The next step may be reducing the herd of 100 at their farm, where they produce cheese, yogurt, kefir and milk.
They are also feeding extra goats that were bred for breeding stock in Ontario, but not taken by a former customer who had been building his herd for three years but stopped this year.
Cheryl said a dairy brought in a large amount of curd there from New York and affected the market, reducing the demand from local farmers. There were also too many farmers over-producing, Randy said, which flooded the market.