India has the world’s largest livestock population.
Photo: © ILRI/Alan Duncan

Software helps cut Indian cows’ methane emissions

A software tool developed by India’s National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) is helping balance the diets of 2.4 million heads of Indian cattle, leading to increased milk output and reduced methane emissions, an international livestock conference heard.

The Indian National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) is conducting a software tool programme called Information Network on Animal Productivity and Health (INAPH) that facilitates the capturing of real-time reliable data on Breeding, Nutrition and Health Services delivered at farmer’s doorstep. The INAPH programme was started in 2010. Results of the programme were presented at the annual Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock Meeting held at Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in June by Vinod Ahuja, a policy officer at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. 

Overall, the programme had helped reduce enteric methane emissions by 12 to 15 per cent while raising the average daily incomes of farmers by USD 0.37 per animal per day, Ahuja told SciDev.Net at the Conference in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

 Methane’s warming potential 20 times that of CO2

Methane from India’s livestock population, the world’s largest, can significantly raise global temperatures according to a study, published in January this year in Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety. The study states that as a greenhouse gas, methane has 20 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide.

According to FAO expert Ahuja, INAPH calculates optimal feed mixes for each of the total 2.4 million animals in more than 30,000 villages, with a local resource person trained to use the software and provide advisory services to farmers. Factored into the software tool are the type of food, weight of the animal and fat content in its milk.

Rajesh Sharma, senior manager at the NDDB headquarters in Anand, Gujarat state, told SciDev that the purpose behind rationing and balancing the diet of cows had been to make dairying sustainable. “Unless it is useful to farmers in a tangible way, it won’t be attractive,” Sharma said. “Now they get more fat content in their milk, along with reduced expenses on feed and fodder.”

He pointed out that the World Bank-funded programme, first launched in 2010 and now covering 18 of India’s 29 states, was dependent on doorstep delivery of advisory services. “Adjustments are made according to the availability of different types of feed and fodder with the help of the software, ensuring that a balance in protein, energy, minerals and vitamins is always maintained,” Sharma said.

(SciDev/wi)

 

More information:

The Information Network on Animal Productivity and Health

The annual Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock Meeting

Link to study: Climate change impact of livestock CH4 emission in India: Global temperature change potential (GTP) and surface temperature response