Parole: Caseificio (cheesehouse), fattoria per la produzione di latte (dairy farm), mungiturare (to milk)
Happy Mid-May! I have been very busy since spring break with our work experiences and other things that we have been doing. The weather has been warm to almost too hot, and has been nearly always sunny. Today is no exception, being in the mid-80s and sunny as can be. Here is a recap of some of the things I have been up to.
Welcome to Punto Latte!
For the first week of the work experience portion of our program, I worked at a small Caseificio called Punto Latte. Punto Latte makes 6 wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese a day. Being small, we were able to stop and talk a lot about the cheese making, so we could fully understand the entire process. We were also able to help make the cheese. The milk used at the caseificio is from their own farm and one other farm. Also on site there is a pig farm and a cheese/meat/salami shop. At the caseficio, I learned a lot about the art of making Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Daily, there are so many small adjustments to be made to the amount of rennet (caglio) and siero innestra (whey from the previous day’s cheese; used for maintaining bacterial profile and increasing acidity of the milk) that is added to the caldron. I did not realize just how much the acidity of the siero innestra and the milk would affect how much ingredients were put in and the quality of the cheese. Also, the size of the curd has a lot of effect on the cheese. Too small, and the cheese will be too dry, too large, and it will ferment during aging. The milk fat affects how long the cheese can be aged and the milk protein (specifically casein) affects the overall cheese yield. In general, it takes 16 kg of milk to make 1 kg of Parmigiano-Reggiano. After the initial action, the cheese is more or less molded into the wheel shape, put in a salt bath for 20 days, and aged for 12 to 30 months. The average is 24 months, and at 12 months it is checked by a quality control institute and branded with the Parmigiano-Reggiano consorzio marking. If it is not up to standards, the rind is ground off, and it is sold as a regular, “national grade” parmigiano type cheese.
Caldron with about 1000 kg of milk being heated and mixed
Because of the other operations at the caseficio, we also watched pig halves be cut up into pieces to be sold in the shop, saw their pig operation, and saw some prepping for making salamis. We also toured the dairy farm where the milk comes from to make the cheese. The owner of the farm has very good dairy genetics as a result of meeting Dr. Robert Everett when he came to Modena a long time ago.
Paganina Dairy Farm
My second work experience was at a large dairy farm called Paganina. This farm milks nearly 1000 cows, and had another 1000 in young stock. I had never worked on a farm this large before; I have only toured them. The farm’s milk went to their own caseificio to make Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. For facilities, all barns were cover-all type buildings, and in the building with the parlor, there were locker rooms, a commercial kitchen for everyone to use, and an office.
Double 40 Parlor. Each group is in the parlor for about 20 minutes. Usually there were 4-5 people milking and moving cows. [photo credit: Aubrey
While we were there, we worked mostly with the vet and herd management staff, and we milked in the parlor. Their parlor is a double-40 parallel. This means that 80 cows are in the parlor at a time, and each group of 40 was in there for about 20 minutes. Therefore, in less than an hour, I milked the equivalent of my entire milking herd at my farm at home. There were usually 4-5 people milking.
Each cow has an ankle RFID bracelet/pedometer, which is a part of their “Total Dairy Management” program. The cow is recognized by the system as she enters the parlor, and her activity level, milk, and milk conductivity are automatically entered into the system. As she leaves the parlor, she is stopped on a set of scales, and she is weighed. At this station, the computer also decides if she can return with the rest of the herd, or if she needs to go to the vet check pens. If she has had a spike in activity level, needs to be checked for pregnancy, or a milker entered a problem code into the keypad in the parlor, a gate swings and she is separated. I think this total integration is very cool. It is neat to look at graphs of all of this data, and it helps in diagnosing problems. One cow lost 100 kg (220 pounds) in one day. She was sent by the system to the vet check pen. She had a bad foot, which explains everything.
Weigh Station and Sort Gate [photo credit: Aubrey
We got a lot of practical experiences working with the vets. We got to practice a lot of rectal exams (or as they call it, “rectal exploration”) to understand the reproductive state of the animal. We would feel for follicles, swelling, abnormalities, and pregnancies. If she was in heat, manure was put on her rump to mark it (tradition on the farm) and then later she would be bred. We learned how to prepare semen for AI, and since Liz is AI certified, she was able to breed some cows (with the help of a step-stool, of course). One of the vets, Toto, liked the idea. He is not any taller than Liz, and when I was there, he bred his first cow at this particular farm, and used the help of a stool as well. While I worked with the vets, I gave a lot of shots and was able to help with a lot of therapies. We also checked every breeding age heifer every day for heat. If she was showing signs of heat, we did a rectal exam to confirm.
Vet Cart and Vet Pens [photo credit: Lindsey
I learned a lot at this farm, especially because we spent a lot of hours there and worked with the vet staff. It was my first time doing a lot of the things that we did with the vets, because my farm is so small that we don’t have nearly as many animals that need to be worked on. I also learned a lot about how to improve personnel management on the farm. It was nice to have an experience which was very hands on. Both at the farm and the caseficio we were able to significantly improve our comprehension of Italian, as we were listening to it all the time.
Odds & Ends
All of us with the vet staff [photo credit: Liz
Last week we did the next step for our “residence permit”. Monday was our appointment at the immigration office. We thought that we would be done with this whole process after this appointment, however, we are not. We went to the immigration office, waited an hour, got called up basically to make sure that we were at the office, waited another hour, got called up for photo IDs and fingerprinting, and then waited some more, and then were called up to get our fingerprints taken again, along with our palm prints taken. We were told last fall by the Visa Office in NYC that all we needed to do was turn in paperwork to the police office. This whole thing is a bureaucracy madhouse in which we have had to do more paperwork, pay nearly 70 Euros, and waste a lot of time and fuel. Our next appointment is in July, which is after we leave, as they know. This whole “residence permit” seems pointless and has wasted many of our limited days here in Italy.
In a couple days I will post some more, so this post isn’t overwhelmingly long. I hope the rain at home stops soon!