By nature, goats are browsers (like deer) and not grazers like cows and sheep. Our dairy goats are fed a balanced diet, which is full of nutrients, and free of antibiotics, hormones, animal by-products, or preservatives. Their diet consists of about 70% fibers, which includes brush, leaves, almond hulls, and hay, such as oat or alfalfa hay. The other 30% of their vegetarian diet consists of a variety of grains, which may include safflower meal, oats, barley, cottonseed, corn, and soy depending on the mix.
We work with five different Certified Humane® family farms, including the original Redwood Hill Farm several miles away from our creamery, to source goat milk for our products. The farms primarily raise Alpine, LaMancha, Nubian, and Saanen goats, breeds known for being well suited to milk production. Learn more about our goats here.
Each farm undergoes an annual inspection to maintain its Certified Humane® status, which includes an evaluation of the goats’ diet, social conditions, shelter and resting areas, access to outdoors, veterinary care, and milking procedures.
Our products are not certified organic, however we take great care to use humane and environmentally sensitive practices, including using 100% renewable energy at our creamery and requiring that all our supplying farms be Certified Humane®.
There are very specific reasons that make organic certification challenging for goat dairies. First, under the organic “Pasture Rule,” animals must receive at least 30% of their nutrition from grazing on pasture. This rule was developed with cows in mind, but is applied to all ruminant dairy animals. Because goats are by nature browsers (like deer) and not pasture grazers (like cows or sheep), it is not feasible for farms meet this standard. While our goats do have ample access to pasture, given the choice they will eat bushes, brush, hay, and leafy branches.
Second, we are unable to source GMO-free feed for our goats at this time, due to the limited availability and oftentimes cost prohibitive nature of this feed. However, we do make a point to ensure that none of the ingredients we use in our yogurt or kefir (such as sugar, vanilla, cultures, and fruit) contain GMOs. We require that our suppliers provide us with specifications that ensure the ingredients’ non-GMO status.
Finally, if a goat becomes sick, our farms will treat them with antibiotics if directed by a veterinarian. We care about our goats, many of whom are award-winning animals, too much to let them succumb to a curable infection. Non-therapeutic use of antibiotics (e.g. to promote growth or feed efficiency) is strictly prohibited under the Certified Humane standards. If a goat ever requires medication, we discard the milk long after the recommended time and we test the milk to ensure no drugs enter the human food chain.
At Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery we are deeply concerned with the widespread use of GMOs in our food system, and we fully support efforts to provide GMO transparency through labeling. None of the ingredients we use in our goat milk yogurt, kefir, or cheese (such as sugar, vanilla, cultures, and fruit) contain GMOs. We require that our suppliers provide us with specifications that ensure the ingredients’ non-GMO status.
Unfortunately, we are unable to source non-GMO feed for our goats at this time, due to the limited availability and oftentimes cost prohibitive nature of this feed. The goats receive most of their nutrition (approximately 70%) from hay and brush. The other 30% of their diet comes from a nutritious, vegetarian grain formula that typically includes safflower meal, oats, barley, cottonseed, corn, and soy depending on the mix. The feed contains no hormones, antibiotics, animal by-products, or preservatives.
Some of the farms we work with are very small and located in remote areas and they rely on the availability of feed at their local feed stores. The composition of the grain mix varies from farm to farm, depending on price and seasonal availability, and purchasing non-GMO feed is not always an option.
As soon as we find that sourcing non-GMO goat feed becomes feasible and economically viable (and we very much hope it will), we will take steps to explore non-GMO certification.
In 2005, Redwood Hill Farm became the first goat dairy in the United States to become Certified Humane®. Today, every farm that supplies goat milk to Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery undergoes an annual audit in order to maintain Certified Humane® status. Certified Humane® is a rigorous animal welfare certification awarded by Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC), an independent, third-party nonprofit organization based in Virginia.
The program is designed to empower consumers to buy food products with the confidence that they came from a farm with high standards for animal welfare. By certifying products with the Certified Humane® logo, consumers are given a choice. The goal is to improve the lives of farm animals in food production by driving consumer demand for kinder and more responsible farm animal practices.
The animal welfare standards for Certified Humane® were created by a Scientific Committee comprised of 40 scientists and veterinarians from all over the world. For goats, requirements include:
If you are interested in reading the complete standard for dairy goats, click here.
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