Welcome to the farm where cows can sleep on mattresses and even get a massage.

It's happening at the Vella Dairy Farm at Tal-Balal, San Gwann, where €1 million have been invested on new facilities to make the cows feel more comfortable.

"The happier the cow, the higher the milk production," Brian Vella, one of the owners, said as he showed Rural Affairs Minister George Pullicino around the facility.

The investment has included a new shelter for the cows and special mattresses for the cows to rest on. They also have a machine, not unlike a car wash, where they can get a massage.

Mr Vella said he has also invested in new cooling equipment to ensure that the milk remains fresh and at a constant temperature.

The next stage of the investment will be robotic state-of-the-art milking equipment which will milk the cows 'whenever they feel they need to' without human intervention.

The farm currently has 200 cows and 180 calves. The farm produces 4,500 litres of milk every day.

The government helped Mr Vella through a grant of €500,000.

Mr Pullicino said assistance was similarly given to 60 other farmers for a total outlay of €5 million.

He said that over the coming three years, the government would invest €3 million to help farmers replace their herds. The idea, he said, was to have smaller herds with higher milk production.

He also announced that the system of government assistance to farmers would be changed so that payments would be given in stages as an investment progressed, rather than as a lump sum at the end. This would improve cash flow.

The minister was accompanied on his tour this morning by some 50 children from Paola primary school. He said that such school visits were being encouraged after research in the UK found that many children did not know that milk came from cows. They thought it was produced much like soft drinks. The schoolchildren were also taken to the Benna dairy.

The Rural Affairs Ministry this Sunday will hold Festa Halib at Church Square, Gharghur. It will feature a range of farm animals and products made mostly from milk. Farm equipment will also be on display. There will be organised tours to farms, for which booking has to be made beforehand on telephone 25904130 or on naturalmentmalti.mrra.gov.mt