A recent study by Kansas State University concluded that in terms of presence of E. coli O157:H7, there was no difference between "organic," "naturally-raised" and conventionally raised beef. Feedlots provide all of the conventionally raised beef and the vast majority of organic and naturally-raised beef. Only a small percentage of organic beef is grassfed and finished on pasture. The study reported that feces from 14% of the organic and naturally-raised cattle contained the pathogenic strain of E. coli, and that this number was comparable to conventional systems. What the study did NOT include were samples from cattle that were pasture-finished or grassfed, surprisingly, not a requirement of either organic or naturally-raised systems. I imagine that there are many consumers who will be surprised to learn this.
Sue Stovall raises Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) dairy goats at Paradox Farm Creamery in West End, North Carolina. “We happened into farming when we bought 3 goats and a llama in 2008,” says Sue. “From there, the farm and business have grown, adding more milking does, equipment and new goat milk products. I’m retired from my career and now doing this full time.” Sue and her team make delicious, award-winning goat cheeses made from the milk of her herd of Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW dairy goats.
The herd of dairy goats includes Nubians, Nigerians, Saanens and Alpines. “I like to mix them all up,” says Sue. “I use Nigerians for size, but because their milk production is low, I added Nubians—a larger breed with milk of a high butterfat content. Then I added Alpines for quantity of milk. I cross back to a buck that has better milk lines for a better quality of milk.”
For Sue, animal health is the foundation of her farm management practices. “There are so many important parts to managing the goats but keeping them healthy is at the top of the list. A healthy goat to me means a goat that is healthy without taking medication, healthy because they exist in an environment where they are treated well and have all they need to thrive. The whole health piece is really important.”
The herd is managed using rotational grazing practices, where goats graze one section of pasture before being moved to fresh fields. This type of management allows grass to recover before goats return to graze again; it also keeps the soil properly fertilized and minimizes the build-up of internal parasites, thereby avoiding reliance on chemical treatments. Sue’s use of pasture management is part of her whole health plan as well. “I want the animals to be outside and in the fresh air. With the use of rotational grazing, we move them and also supplement with hay and feed. Being outdoors is where they belong. It just makes sense.”
Sue chose to pursue Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW certification after learning about the program and the meaning of the certification. “We live in a small community—one that has changed demographics in the last couple of years. Now there are more military families in the area, so we have a young community that cares about what they eat and where their food comes from. This is just another opportunity for me to demonstrate that we’ve always treated our goats really well. The Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW certification is a way for somebody else to say that besides just me. Anyone can say ‘I treat my animals great,’ but my certification says it without me ever having to do the talking!”
Sue has a couple of granddaughters, and her daughters live nearby. “Family is important to me. If they’re not here physically, they are participating along the way,” says Sue. Her son also helps all the way from his home in Seattle. “I have great people who work with me, and that makes it all worthwhile.”
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW goat milk cheeses and products from Paradox Farm Creamery can be found at a variety of outlets across North Carolina—including online order via Barn2Door. Check the AGW directory for more details. For more information, visit paradoxfarmcreamery.com and contact Sue Stovall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-723-0802 (email preferred). You can also follow the farm on Facebook and Instagram.