A farmer-friendly solution to cut cattle methane emissions
Animal Nutrition

A farmer-friendly solution to cut cattle methane emissions

Agricultural machinery has a positive impact on agricultural productivity. However, on the other hand, agricultural machinery has a price that is not cheap, including its components. Therefore, as a farmer in this technological era, it is important for you to read more and know tips on caring for these agricultural machines.

In order to get the best use of your farming equipment, it is very important to take proper steps to maintain and clean all your farm equipment regularly.

Some aspects of maintenance are only needed every year or two years, but other steps must be taken, namely carrying out maintenance on the tractor engine every day. This also includes keeping your equipment in a safe place, such as in a garage or warehouse in dangerous weather. Monitor the temperature of the engine every time it is used to make sure it doesn’t overheat.

You will also need to list the cleaning and maintenance procedures required. This checklist should be done daily and includes procedures such as checking tractor tires, counting all tools and returning them to their designated places, checking coolant and oil, and making sure no belts are loose.

Whenever your farm machinery requires professional service, whether for repair or just a standard inspection, make sure you keep detailed records of what procedures were performed and who performed them. That way, you can reference these documents in the future if the equipment needs further service. Or, conversely, if you plan to sell it.

If you feel confident with the treatment, for now, you should do regular maintenance. Performing regular maintenance on agricultural equipment will make your agricultural equipment last for a long time and avoid damage.

If the agricultural machinery is in excellent condition, besides making agricultural production easier, it also makes you more comfortable and avoids unwanted things due to damage to agricultural machinery.

Belching cattle, buffaloes, sheep and goats in India emit an estimated 9.25 million tonnes (mt) to 14.2 mt of methane annually, out of a global total of 90 mt-plus from livestock. And given methane’s global warming potential – 25 times of carbon dioxide (CO2) over 100 years, making it a more potent greenhouse gas – that’s cause for concern.

Thankfully, there are ameliorative strategies too. An Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) institute has developed an anti-methanogenic feed supplement ‘Harit Dhara’. When given to bovines and sheep, it not only cuts down their methane emissions by 17-20%, but also results in higher milk production and body weight gain. In other words, win-win for both the environment and livestock farmers.

“An average lactating cow or buffalo in India emits around 200 litres of methane per day, while it is 85-95 litres for young growing heifers and 20-25 litres for adult sheep. Feeding Harit Dhara can reduce these by a fifth. For a cow producing 200 litres (143 g) of methane, it translates into 0.714 kg less of CO2 equivalent emissions daily or 261 kg per year (1 litre methane=0.714 g; 1 kg methane=25 kg CO2),” Dr Raghavendra Bhatta, director of the ICAR’s National Institute of Animal Nutrition and Physiology (NIANP) at Bengaluru, told The Indian Express.

Methane is produced by animals having rumen, the first of their four stomachs where the plant material they eat – cellulose, fibre, starch and sugars – gets fermented or broken down by microorganisms prior to further digestion and nutrient absorption. Carbohydrate fermentation leads to production of CO2 and hydrogen. These are used as substrate by archaea – microbes in the rumen with structure similar to bacteria – to produce methane, which the animals then expel through burping.

Harit Dhara acts by decreasing the population of protozoa microbes in the rumen, responsible for hydrogen production and making it available to the archaea for reduction of CO2 to methane. Tropical plants containing tannins – bitter and astringent chemical compounds – are known to suppress or remove protozoa from the rumen.

“Our product has been prepared using condensed and hydrolysable tannin-rich plant-based sources abundantly available in the country. Harit Dhara roughly costs Rs 6/kg and it is to be fed only to animals aged above three months having fully functional rumen. Our recommended daily dosage is 500 g for adult cattle and buffaloes, 150 g for growing bovines and 50 g for adult sheep,” said Bhatta.

But lowering of enteric methane emissions may not sufficient economic justification for farmers to feed Harit Dhara. What NIANP’s anti-methanogenic feed supplement also does is change the composition of the volatile fatty acids that are the end-products of rumen fermentation (along with hydrogen and CO2).

“Fermentation continues as before, but there is more production of propionic acid now in proportion to acetic and butyric acid. Since propionic acid provides much of the energy for lactose (milk sugar) production and body weight gain, there is economic benefit, too, from feeding of Harit Dhara. The biological energy loss from methane emission can be rechanneled and utilised by the animal for milk production and growth,” explained Bhatta.

According to him, feeding 500 g Harit Dhara to lactating cattle and buffaloes would increase milk output by 300-400 ml/animal/day. The additional weight gain will, likewise, be 20-25 g/day from 150 g for growing bovines and about 7 g/day from 50 g for adult sheep. At Rs 30/litre milk price, the benefit-cost ratio for the dairy farmer works out to 3:1.

“We have done field validation and filed patent for Harit Dhara. Compound animal feed manufacturers can also incorporate it into their products by replacing wheat or de-oiled rice bran. Farmers wouldn’t have to, then, separately feed Harit Dhara to their animals,” added Bhatta.

The 2019 Livestock Census showed India’s cattle population at 193.46 million, along with 109.85 million buffaloes, 148.88 million goats and 74.26 million sheep. Being largely fed on agricultural residues – wheat/paddy straw and maize, sorghum or bajra stover – ruminants in India tend to produce 50-100% higher methane than their industrialised country counterparts that are given more easily fermentable/digestible concentrates, silages and green fodder.