The Bleat Beat – Life on the Farm
Welcome to the Bleat Beat Blog! Here you’ll find a window into the daily life at Redwood Hill Farm.
Get to know the smart, affectionate animals that give us this wonderful milk we use to create healthful, nutritious products. Redwood Hill Farm is more than just a purveyor of goat milk products, and we’ll share all aspects of life on a family farm, including our organic fruit orchard and vegetables gardens, our commitment to sustainability and being good stewards to the land.
If you’ve ever seen eye-to-eye with a goat, you may have noticed something different. Some people may even find their gaze outright unsettling. That’s because the goats’ pupils are horizontal—not circular like ours, or vertical like a cat’s.
Why have goats evolved this peculiar trait? According to scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, the shape of goats’ pupils can be traced back to their place in the food chain.
Goats are herbivores, and need to be able to protect themselves when a predator comes along. A broad line of sight, aided by wide, rectangular-shaped pupils, allows them to see danger approaching from their peripheral vision.
Their eyes also have a remarkable ability to “rotate in the head to maintain parallelism with the ground,” says Martin Banks, the lead researcher on the University of California study. This means that when goats bend their head down to graze, their eyes stay level with the horizon, allowing them an even better view of encroaching danger.
Horizontal pupils are one of the many things that make goats unique, and in our opinion, reason to love and protect them all the more!
For 2017, we created a new system for our farm tours. Instead of hosting two large open-house weekends per year, we now have an expanded schedule in 2017, offering tours from April through June that are smaller, more educational and guided by farm staff. Please know that all tours now require advance reservations.
For tour information and reservations, please visit https://redwoodhillfarm.org/tours/visit-the-farm/
For many years past, we opened up the farm to the public for large events for two weekends, including Mother’s Day. Last year alone we hosted more than 1,500 over the course of four days. You may understand that such numbers can create quite a bit of stress on the animals, on our staff, and also the farm grounds.
Our goal has always been to make the farm accessible, to educate people in our community about goats and farming and also on how we grow our food and we feel that this new schedule will be more effective in accomplishing that. For years, cuddling our baby goats and seeing our farm has been a Mother’s Day tradition for many people in our area. Please sign up to join us on Mother’s Day Weekend before it’s booked up, or reserve other tour dates over the next several weeks.
While on one of our guided tours, you can experience the incredible diversity at Redwood Hill Farm, including our fruit orchard, olive grove and hopyard, and learn about our honeybees and chickens. See sustainability in action, from our solar array and rainwater catchment tanks to our pioneering use of Tagasaste, an innovative drought-resistant goat fodder crop.
While we grow a great variety, the goats are the stars at Redwood Hill Farm. See a dairy demonstration and try your hand at milking a goat. The goat kids love all the cuddling and attention! An educational “hands on” tour for about 90 minutes, you’re welcome to bring a picnic and enjoy our peaceful, western Sonoma County Farm after the tour concludes.
Each tour day we’ll feature all kinds of farm-grown goods for sale. Take home cackling fresh eggs, our own honey and estate grown olive oil, along with fresh cut flowers and whatever we’re harvesting. The goat kids are waiting to jump in your arms, so get your boots on and join us at the original Redwood Hill Farm. Thanks for carpooling, and please check our website regularly for updates and to reserve your spot.
We’ve come to the end of another successful goat show season at Redwood Hill Farm, with championship wins at the California State Fair, the Sonoma County Fair, and others under our belt. Have you ever wondered what it takes to raise an award-winning dairy goat? Here, we’ll take you on a visual tour of our herd, and explore some of the qualities that make our goats champions.
Since the beginning, the goal of Redwood Hill Farm’s dairy goat breeding program has been to achieve “the winning combination of milkability and showability,” a term coined by the late Steven Schack, who started Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery with Jennifer Bice in 1978. Jennifer’s passion for dairy goats began at a young age, when she and her nine younger siblings raised dairy goats as 4-H projects on their parents’ small farm in Sebastopol, CA. For Jennifer and the other Bice children, attachment to these smart and personable animals came naturally.
While expanding Redwood Hill Farm’s line of goat milk products and growing their business, Jennifer and Steven’s herd continued to evolve and improve. Together, they won their first Premier Breeder of Show award at the ADGA (American Dairy Goat Association) National Show in 1982; then again in 1984 and 1986. Sadly, Steven passed away in 1999. Jennifer kept his herd name—“Companeros”—to honor his memory and love for the Saanen breed. His Companeros herd of Saanens continues to impact the dairy goat world to this day, and Redwood Hill Farm has been awarded National Champion multiple times in the Saanen, Alpine and Nubian breeds.
So, what makes a winning dairy goat? When judging, the ADGA licensed judge is required to evaluate the dairy goat based on four major categories: General Appearance, Dairy Strength, Body Capacity, and Mammary System. This is not a beauty contest; the scorecard, which consists of 100 points total, is based on traits that will ensure a long and productive life.
1. General Appearance is the structure of the dairy goat: including head, back, shoulders, feet and legs. Overall, the judge looks for an attractive framework. A Lamancha doe,“Kastdemur’s Evian” in the photo below, is a good example of a doe with fine general appearance.
2. Dairy Strength covers attributes that indicate good milk production, such as angularity and openness of the rib and flatness of bone. “Amicale” in the photo below excels in dairy strength, and has been awarded National Champion Alpine.
3. Body Capacity correlates the width and depth of the body, ensuring ample capacity, strength and vigor. “Vineyard View Foxy Traveler” below is a Saanen with great body capacity.
4. The Mammary System category evaluates areas of the udder that will be important for a long, productive life. Although capacity in the mammary is significant, teat size, teat placement, udder shape and attachment are also very important. “Redwood Hills Rainbow,” our Alpine shown below, has an excellent overall mammary system.
We’re continually improving our herd at Redwood Hill Farm. Jennifer is still actively involved in the breeding program and handling goats at shows. Her lifetime with goats began in 4-H, and she’s been a licensed ADGA judge for 42 years. She still likes to call our farm “a 4-H project that went out of control.” Her brother Scott Bice, Farm Manager at Redwood Hill Farm, is also a licensed dairy goat judge and keeps his own herd of “Vineyard View” dairy goats within our herd at Redwood Hill Farm. Scott and the farm crew are busy all year long at our Certified Humane Raised & Handled® farm, keeping the herd healthy and in tip-top shape for goat show season.
Of course, good breeding is just the beginning. When goats are happy, healthy and well-bred, you can really taste the difference; the best dairy always comes from the freshest, cleanest milk. Redwood Hill Farm’s yogurt, kefir and cheese are minimally processed, with a mild and uniquely delicious flavor. Our products have received top prizes from the American Cheese Society, the American Dairy Goat Association, and the California State Fair, to name a few. From award-winning dairy goats come award-winning products. A winning combination.
By David Bice
At Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery, we have long been known for making healthful and delicious goat milk yogurt, kefir and artisan cheeses – but did you know we are also a mini solar power plant? We make all of our dairy in our solar-powered creamery, where the sum of all electricity needs is covered by renewable energy.
Quality and sustainability are guiding principles for Jennifer Bice, Founder and Managing Director of Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery.
Young Emma Bello Brings Dairy Goats and Cheese Making to the Islands
Shared by David Bice
When we sample our goat milk cheeses at events or stores, people often say, “I wish I had goats!” or “My dream is to have goats one day and make cheese”. For most, it remains a dream. For Hawaii’s Emma Bello, it’s a dream come true.
Not all goat milk is the same – there are variations in volume, components, water content and butterfat depending on the time of year and on the type of goat breed. Of all breeds, Alpine and Saanen dairy goats are the top producers by volume. Milk from the Nubian dairy goat breed on the other hand, tends to be a bit higher in butterfat. To make our yogurt, kefir and cheeses consistent and delicious in flavor, we combine goat milk from Redwood Hill Farm and seven other family farms, sourcing milk from La Mancha, Nubian, Alpine, Oberhasli, and Saanen goats.
Sebastopol, CA, December 1, 2015
My dear friends,
I have important news to share with you. Yesterday, on November 30th, I agreed to sell my business, Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery, to Emmi, a dairy and cheese company from Switzerland. Please allow me to tell you about my journey towards this decision. I want you to know why I chose Emmi – a company which is, to this day, majority owned by a cooperative of small-scale dairy farmers. I will describe how this change will benefit our community, and how it will allow me to deepen my relationship with my animals and the land that sustains us all.
Our Zimba passed away at the old goat age of 12 years with friends, herdmates, and sister Zoe by her side
Born in the Spring of 2002 in a kidding that produced twin does, Zimba (SG Redwood Hills Ransom Zimba) is the daughter of the sweet doe Grand Champion Redwood Hills Samurai Zariba and her sire, the wild and reckless buck Willow Run Atlas Ransom.
In Italy there are many festivals in November to celebrate the olive harvest, when family and friends gather to harvest the plump green and purple fruit by hand.
It was a cold but sunny morning three years ago, when we started our own family tradition: picking the fruit of our young trees by hand to make “green gold”—the buttery, peppery, and delicious olive oil.
At Redwood Hill Farm, we’ve been farming gardens and orchards just as long as dairy farming—nearly 50 years.
It is typical in Sonoma County to experience an extended dry period each summer without rainfall for many months. We are therefore accustomed to using water wisely and have implemented different water conservation systems which include composting, drip irrigation, reclaiming and reusing water, and dry farming. The severe drought conditions of the last four years have challenged us to perfect these techniques as we make the most of the water we have, now more than ever.