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The Producers: Meet the CEO of a 'Five-Star Hotel' for Cows

03 October, 2022
CEO at La Fiorida standing among racks of ageing cheese

courtesy of La Fiorida

Across the farmstead's twenty hectares - the only one that includes a Michelin-star restaurant in Italy - the short supply chain is tangible, and 'zero kilometre' is a reality. In addition to the 'stalla nuova', there's also a greenhouse, a blueberry field and a zero-kilometer dairy, where Casera (DOP) cheese is produced and aged, among various other cheeses.

cows eating in a stall

Photo Mariarosaria Bruno

But how did the stalla nuova project come about? “We sought advice from Gianmatteo Romegialli, a civil architect in Valtellina​​​. We explained that we wanted a barn for the welfare of the animals, which would integrate well into the environment and the existing structure," says Vanini. “We travelled the world with him, we went to Holland and to America for some studies. We also went to Lebanon and Italy to study various barns. In the end, we took the best of what we saw, putting it all together and creating an ad hoc team with veterinarians and agronomists. Cows have the most correct spaces now: for animal welfare, here we have allocated 21 square meters per cow, like a studio flat [laughs], against the 4.50 meters required by law.”

an automatic food distributor for dairy cows

Photo courtesy La Fiorida

Here then, is a structure of 6250 square meters, 125 meters long by 44.50 meters wide, which can be admired from above from a suspended walkway, while piped classical music relaxes the cows (not to mention the people).

Sand is a feature that characterises the space inside the barn. “The animals sleep on the sand: we studied what to put on the ground for a long time. Sand is present in a few farms in Italy and in some farms in America, but it is perfect as a material: it's like the earth, which is where cows lie down in nature, and then it is inert and doesn't allow bacterial proliferation, therefore we see fewer infections of legs and udders, meaning less use of antibiotics and a reduction of drugs in the farm and greater animal welfare,” she says. The sand conceals a complex state-of-the-art liquid drainage system, which allows to keep the surface consistently dry.

Inside the new stall at La Fiorida

Photo Mariarosaria Bruno

A ventilation system cools the air and ensures that the gases produced by the cows are removed and do not remain in the barn. How do the cows eat? First of all, water is served at a controlled temperature, thanks to a circular and anti-waste system. "The water is taken from our boiler, it is the waste water due to the heat that burns, it arrives in the pipes and then in the drinking troughs where there is a coil that maintains the same temperatures both in summer and in winter," Vanini explains.

Among the main innovations is the robotic preparation and distribution of food, with a 'vector' preparing fresh meals for the animals several times a day. "There is a real line in the barn: the robot weighs the quantity of each ingredient and adjusts the proportions, according to the recipe that is set. If the robot realises that it has taken more food than necessary, it returns back and takes it all back." The mix is ​​based on straw, hay, chopped corn, alfalfa and banded hay.

New cow barn at La Fiorida

Photo Mariarosaria Bruno

"No company has all this technology in the same structure and there are very few activities that make such a space available for the cows," explains Vanini with pride, who has invested heavily in the project, making a dream a reality, but also being careful to abide by the requirements of the European Union and to the funds allocated by the RDP - Rural Development Plan.

"I can be angry, frustrated, sad, but when I enter the barn, and I am among the cows, I feel good. You have to really believe in it and do everything to be able to create something that can guarantee the well-being of everyone, of the cows and consumers, because their milk is proven to be better: a superior quality product, which we will assign to the starred restaurant as well as to the shop and our dairy production."

Evidence that, even on a planet battered by climate change and its consequences, another world is possible.

Jason Ross

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