New bench-mark: Milma to combat climate change

How many of you would pinch yourself if you were told that methane emissions from livestock – in the form of burps and flatulence produced during enteric fermentation in the rumen of animals – make up for around half the total methane emission in the country? Well, it’s true, and Malabar Regional Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union (Milma) has now taken steps to help farmers make their cows belch and fart less through dietary interventions.

India, which has the world’s largest livestock population of 512 million, produces 11.75 million tonnes of methane – a strong greenhouse gas which is over 20 times more potent than CO2 as a heat-trapping gas, every year. This was revealed in a study done at the Ahmedabad-based Space Applications Centre in 2009.

Figures released by ministry of statistics and programme implementation in 2015, based on 2007 data, pegged the figure at 10,099 thousand metric tonnes of methane, accounting for 49.11% of the total national methane emission of 20,564 thousand metric tonnes.After the recent Paris accord on climate change, the cattle dietary change is being touted as a new step to control emissions!

Malabar Rural Development Foundation (MRDF), under Milma, has started a campaign to cut methane and other GHG emissions from livestock by prodding farmers to provide balanced rations to animals by popularizing its TMR (total mixed ration) feed. MRDF has dished out a short animation video, with handy tips, on methane mitiga tion to farmers.

“Reduction of methane emissions from livestock is vital for long-term sustainability of dairy industry.It has been demonstrated that methane production by cows can be reduced by making appropriate changes in nutrition and feed.Apart from expanding the ration balancing programme to around 25,000 animals in the Malabar region, we are also popularizing our high quality TMR feed formulation, which is easily digestible,” said MRDF CEO K Damodaran Nair.

MRDF officials claim that TMR had the optimum mix of fibre and protein content which helped in easy digestion and thereby causing less flatulence in cattle.

He said that the ingredients in TMR include high quality forages like alfalfa along with groundnut, maize hay, grains like maize, tapioca powder, brans like rice bran, chunnies of black gram, green gram, molasses, salt, mineral mixture etc.

Technical officer of MRFD’s ration balancing programme (RBP) N Ahammed Khais, said that a study conducted by national dairy development board (NDDB) showed that cows fed with balanced ration under RBP programme emitted around 10-15% less methane.

“Cows traditionally fed on low quality roughages like dried rice straw produced more methane. Also overfeeding adds to the problem. But now as many as 25K animals in the region are being fed a balanced ration on the basis of prescription made by local resource persons we have deployed under RBP in 334 dairy cooperative societies,” he said.

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