The Experimental Institute for Dairy Livestock

The Experimental Institute for Dairy Livestock originated from the Istituto Sperimentale Agrario Cremonese-Fondazione G. Robbiani (agricultural Experimental Institute of Cremona – Institution G. Robbiani) established, in Cremona on 29 October 1922, thanks to the contribution of different local subjects concerned with progress and social welfare in agriculture.

The main reason for the creation of the Institute was the willingness to face farmer’s problems using new technologies and new scientific discoveries; with this in mind, donations in favor to the local extension and advisory services, the so-called “Cattedra ambulante di agricoltura (itinerant agricultural chair)”, held by Vincenzo De Carolis, were made by minded landowners, farmers and dairy cooperatives. A farm of 80 ha, just outside the city of Cremona, was purchased to have an adequate structure to implement, host, test, and promote technical innovations as well as for teaching purposes. The name of the farm was Porcellasco and since then the Institute has been known as “Porcellasco” by the local people.

Prof. De Carolis was the first Director, who was in charge for more than 30 years until 1959. In 1958 the name changed to Istituto Zootecnico Agrario Lombardo and the institute became a legal entity. All fields of agriculture, ranging from crop growing to animal husbandry, were studied and experimented at the Porcellasco Farm. The Institution contributed to the development of a modern livestock system in Italy. Among the most important: the improvement of the "seven year" crop rotation; studies on silages and ensiling technique; formulation and introduction into the dairy cow diet of the first complete mixed feed concentrate; the substitution of the Brown cows with Friesian ones. In 1967, when the agricultural research institutions were reformed and integrated into the Italian Ministry of Agriculture the Institute, under the direction of Prof. Monestiroli, became a section of the Istituto Sperimentale per la Zootecnia and iits mission dealt with dairy cattle and dairy cattle beef production.

The direction of Alessandro Carena, in the 80’s, gave new impulse to research activities on conservation and use of forages in dairy diets and their effect on milk quality; in particular, results obtained in those years contributed to the development and spreading the the practice of ensiling italic ryegrass (L. multiflorum Lam.) in horizontal silos.

Under the direction of Giacomo Pirlo, in the 90’s, three main problems were faced: milk quality, rearing of dairy heifers, and biological efficiency of dairy cows. New methodological approaches started to be adopted: individual animals instead of the groups were considered as experimental units and the physiological aspect was emphasized. During the last 10 years, important research projects on the use of automatic milking systems were carried out. Environmental sustainability of livestock farms and animal welfare became two of the most important areas of study.