These animals are treated very well. This is not true of all buffalo farms! The farm is as modern as it comes. The cows, when lactating, live in spacious, open air stables that are cleaned five times every day. They listen to a couple of hours of Mozart early every morning and have access to brushes that spin when they need their backs scratched. They look the brushes you would find in a car wash.
The animals have one responsibility, to make good milk. In order to do this they need to rest and eat. They are fed with an organic mix of corn, peas, alfalfa and grass. When it’s hot outside (it gets very hot here) they have a sprinkler that showers them lightly with water as they eat. Water buffaloes lactate for roughly 280 days a year and will have up to 15 calves during their lifetime. There are around 600 animals at Vannulo, 200 lactating females at any given time and 8 “lucky bulls” as our guide Stefania says. When they aren’t lactating, or “working,” the Buffaloes are left to graze in the fields surrounding the caseificio (cheese farm). The milking machines really are state of the art. Made by a Swedish company, DeLaval, everything is done automatically. Each animal has a chip. When their udder is full, these smart animals make their way to the milking machine. They are usually milked 3 times per day and produce about 6 gallons (not a lot) of milk daily. The milking process only takes a few minutes. Once the cow enters the milking area, her teats are washed and the machine attaches itself to her udder. Once milked she goes back into the resting/eating zone.
We also get to see how the cheese is made, but only from a window. Cleanliness is important so as the workers turn the milk into cheese and yogurt we watch from outside. The cheese that they are tearing into balls is very hot and this tank is filled with cold water…I’m getting hungry!
After visiting the farm it’s time to eat. Vannulo has a beautiful new dining room for individuals who drop in or call ahead. We are lucky enough to be behind a bougainvillea covered villa on the back patio today.
Lunch is simple and delicious. Crespelle (crepes) stuffed with buffalo ricotta and spinach, fresh baked olive bread and Fiano, a local white wine. After the crespelle we are served a green salad and cherry tomatoes grown here at the farm dressed with local extra virgin olive oil, along with some fresh…what else…Mozzerella and ricotta cheese.
After our cheese and salad we get to taste the yogurt, it is served in little glass jars and the portion is just right since we need to save room for dessert…
If you are lucky enough to be visiting Naples, the Greek ruins of Paestum (10 minutes away) or the Almafi Coast, and are brave enough to drive, put Tenuta Vannulo on your list of sights and call ahead if you would like a tour. It is most worthy of a visit!