October 26, 2014 by dairycarrie
Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing posts from our trip to France and Italy. I hope you all enjoy!
What happens when you send two dairy farmers on vacation? They go visit other dairy farms of course! Nobody can say that we aren’t passionate about dairy farming right?
Italy has a thriving agritourism sector. When Hubs and I started planning our trip we knew we wanted to spend at night at an Italian dairy farm. There are a few sites that will help you find an Italian agritourismo but none of them sorted out the hundreds of options by what the farms grow or raise. After searching the internet for days and looking at hundreds of possibilities, I found Corte Virgiliana and I knew we had to go there!
Now because we weren’t thinking about things that normal people think about like taking photos of our room and instead were focused on all things Italian dairy farm, we have a bit of a gap in the photos. But I’ll give you a quick run down! Our room was actually a small apartment, it was adorable and well furnished. It’s amazing to think that we slept in a room that has been used by royalty! The room rate, which was remarkably cheap included breakfast delivered to our door in the morning and it was a tasty mix of pastry, yogurt and jams.
The only regret we have about our stay at Corte Virgiliana is that we didn’t stay longer. We would have loved to have a chance to talk with the family but they were very busy with harvest just like we were at home. If we ever have the chance to go again, we’ll make sure to stay more than just one night!
Hubs and I both thought this nipple pail that the newborn calves on this farm drink from was very interesting. Neither of us have seen this style in the US. Our excitement over this pail is why our non farm friends never call us to go out for dinner.
This building used to hold the horses and carriages of Italian royalty. Now it holds heifers.
After the calves are a doing well the farmer moves them into group housing where they have an automatic calf feeder.
So stinking cute!
No really, when I saw this little heifer calf I started plotting how to get her through customs. I was thinking I would try the “seeing eye calf” angle. Hubs wouldnt let me even though there was plenty of room in the Fiat.
Not only is this calf cute, shes modeling the latest calf fashion! The collar on her neck has a transponder that tells the robotic calf feeder who she is. The computer keeps track of how much each calf eats, keeps a single calf from being a milk hog and will let the farmer know if a calf doesn’t eat when she should so he can check on her to make sure she isn’t sick
Here are two babies getting some dinner at the robotic feeder stations in their pens.
The calves on this farm may have the newest calf feeding technology, but they sleep in a building that is hundreds of years old.
At first glance this building may look stuffy but we were very surprised to feel the nice breeze flowing through the barn.
These heifers are basically living in a cow castle. Please dont tel my cows that Italian cows get castles.
The freestall building where the cows live is the only new building on the farm. Even though its new the barn blends in with the other buildings very well.
The freestall building may be new but it blends in with the other historic buildings very well.
Well hello there ladies!
This farm mils about 200 cows. They had a mix of Holsteins and “Procross” cows which are a mix of Holstein, Swedish Red and Montbeliard breeds.
If you look close this girl is white, red and black!
This gal very much wanted to be my friend. I felt special until I realized she was in heat and pretty much wanted to be friends with everyone.
This machine is basically a kitchen aide mixer for cows. A KA mixer can do many things and so can this… The snout on the front is made to grab feed ingredients from a big bunker/pile. As the roller turns the feed is pushed up the tube and into the mixer tub in back. The mixer tub in back has augers that turn and mix all the different ingredients together. Then the driver can drive along and put the mixed feed out the side of the mixer. This set up keeps the farmer from needing another piece of equipment to load feed into the mixer.
Fresh feed all mixed up for the ladies!
One of the things that stood out to Hubs about the freestall barn is that there is no wood! Even the trusses of the building were concrete.
The dry cows on the farm had sprinklers keeping them comfortable. Another thing in this pen that could never happen in Wisconsin was a slow moving manure cleaner. The pen was kept nice and clean with a scraper running all the time.
The milk from Corte Virgiliana goes to a plant where they make Grana Padano cheese, which is delicious and very similar to Parmesan. With the proximity of Parma, most of the milk in this area is either going to Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese makers.
Mantua is in Northern Italy. It’s South of Verona and North of Parma and Modena.
Mantua was the home of the Gonzaga family. In fact Corte Virgiliana was built by the Ganzaga family in the 14th century. Mantua is surrounded by three man made lakes and is home to many amazing historical buildings. We didn’t have a lot of time in Mantua but we did go out for dinner and did some exploring for a few hours.
Palace meets dairy farm… If I was an actual dairy heiress, this would be farm.
Sunset over one of the lakes in Mantua.
We wandered the gardens the morning before we left and found this well. Pretty amazing to think that it’s not just a lawn decoration someone put out.
Hubs likes vodka lemonade. I figured I would introduce him to lemoncello and he would love it. I was wrong. But that meant more for me!
These grapes were so sweet and juicy!
This guy was a little crazy, he wanted to be pet but he also wanted to bite me. So basically, Italian cats are the same as cats at home.
This is the part of the compound where our apartment was.
The farm sign out front.
If you’re looking to experience life on a dairy farm in Italy, I don’t think there is any better place than Corte Virgiliana!
I love cows.