text size: smaller reset larger

 

 

More milk, less methane

By improving feed resources, more milk can be produced from fewer cows (ILRI/Mann)
By improving feed resources, more milk can be produced from fewer cows
ILRI/Mann

Over the next two decades, rapid urbanisation and rising incomes in the developing world are expected to bring about a livestock revolution. In India, this boom in the production of animal products will be driven by a demand for milk, which is projected to increase by more than 80 million tons over 15 years. Smallholder livestock producers will have new opportunities to raise their incomes on the back of this increasing demand, particularly among the vulnerable communities occupying dry, marginal and remote lands, that rely most heavily on their animals. At the same time, however, livestock production faces continuing global criticism for the environmental damage caused by its emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. To be environmentally friendly, further development of livestock production systems will have to rely on increased efficiency of production rather than increased numbers of animals.

A complete diet

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and its partners have identified livestock feed to be an issue at the interface of both positive and negative effects of livestock on livelihoods and the environment. Feeding strategies that increase the efficiency of livestock production by producing more milk from fewer animals and consuming less feed will reduce not only greenhouse gas emissions but also the amount of land and water required to feed the animals. ILRI and its partners advocate animal feeding systems that make use of key feed resources that do not require additional land and water for their production. Chief among these is stover: the stalks, leaves and other residues of cereal and legume plants left over after the grain has been harvested.

Farmers are improving feed resources by selecting and breeding new cultivars that have a higher yield and fodder quality (ILRI/Mann)
Farmers are improving feed resources by selecting and breeding new cultivars that have a higher yield and fodder quality
ILRI/Mann

ILRI researchers adopted a 'value chain' approach to identify diverse actors along the entire feed value chain. By engaging livestock producers, fodder traders, feed manufacturers and research institutes, the researchers were able to develop experimental 'complete rations' that consist of more than 80 per cent stover and other agricultural by-products. Global Project Leader Michael Blümmel explains that the partners are also collaborating on improving feed resources at source by selecting and breeding new cultivars that have not only higher grain/pod yield but also higher crop residue quantity and fodder quality. "The stover we've been working on is sorghum, but in the Indo-Gangetic Plains, producers can use wheat or rice straw. Other components of the mix are milling by-products such as bran, oilcakes from the production of edible oil, about 4 per cent grains and about 2 per cent vitamins, minerals and urea."

Intensifying dairy

"The idea of raising milk production to reduce numbers of animals is based on economics and on the real-world experiences of our partner, the NGO Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation (BAIF)," continues Blümmel. "Demand sets the production ceiling, while natural resource availability sets limits." Cows with poor nutrition can't meet as much of the demand for milk, but a smaller number of high producing cows can easily reach the production ceiling without extra environmental impacts.

India's manufacturers of complete ration feed blocks are searching for ways to make their feeds more economical (Miracle Fodder and Feed Ltd Pvt)
India's manufacturers of complete ration feed blocks are searching for ways to make their feeds more economical
Miracle Fodder and Feed Ltd Pvt

A trial with smallscale producers of buffalo milk in India showed the potential of this improved feed-to-yield by achieving more than 15 litres of milk per cow per day, a significant boost over the national average of 4.3 litres of daily production for buffaloes and 3.61 litres for all dairy animals. Mainstreaming this level of productivity in India's livestock population would substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and natural resource use. ILRI's models suggest that yearly methane emissions from India's dairy animals could decline from 2.3 to 1.1 million tons if the average daily milk yield achieved this increase from 3.61 to 15 litres per animal.

Decentralised production

Adoption of complete ration feed technologies based on agricultural by-products has been building slowly, with most farmers still preferring to mix their own feed rations. Lack of information is one reason for this slow rate of adoption, but the relatively high price of the feed also limits farmer's feed strategies. Ever entrepreneurial, India's manufacturers of complete ration feed blocks are responding by searching for ways to make their feeds based on crop by-products more economical.

High on the agenda of India's feed manufacturers is decentralising production units to obtain the most economical use of locally available feed resources. As Mr Zombade, who leads a total mixed ration business at Poshak Agrivet, explains, "We are down-scaling our high throughput production machineries to smallscale ones that can serve decentralised production units. Rather than producing and selling feed blocks centrally, we are going to produce and sell smallscale production units." This should help get complete ration feed to more farmers at more competitive prices, as well as help demonstrate the possibility of producing more milk from fewer cows.

Written by: T. Paul Cox with contributions from Michael Blümmel

Date published: July 2010

 

Have your say

Your notes is wonderful which indicates the ways that farmer... (posted by: KALAYU)

 

The New Agriculturist is a WRENmedia production.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.
Accept
Read more