Changes in feeds and fodders lead to methane mitigation in livestock: study

A study by scientists of Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University and Rothamsted Research UK, which was published in the recent edition of the Elsevier international journal Animal, suggested that diverse forages might affect intestinal methane emissions from cattle

March 31, 2023 10:35 pm | Updated 10:41 pm IST - KALPETTA

Methane emissions from cattle is a pressing issue in the country. India is the world leader in milk production and has a thriving dairy industry with over 300 million cattle. As a result, a significant proportion of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions comes from cattle methane emissions.

A recent study by scientists of Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (KVASU) and Rothamsted Research UK suggested that diverse forages might affect enteric methane emissions from cattle. The study was published in the recent edition of the Elsevier international journal Animal.

Researchers used an automated instrument called GreenFeed to measure enteric methane emissions from growing cattle at North Wyke Farm Platform, Devon, UK. When animals feed in the feeding trough attached to this instrument, methane emissions are measured. By measuring methane in real-time, intestinal methane emissions can be accurately assessed without stressing the animals.

Forages fed to the animals were also assessed by researchers. To measure animal performance, the average daily gain of animals was used.

“It is challenging to accurately measure methane in livestock. Through using its innovative automated technology, GreenFeed quantifies methane production without affecting the well-being of the animals being measured,” said Muhammed Elayadeth Meethal, co-author of the study who works as an assistant professor in the Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics, KVASU.

Methane phenotype, typically known as units for measuring methane emissions, was used by researchers in their measurements. One of the phenotypes noted was the estimation of methane production, based on the total amount of methane produced by each animal daily. Another unit of methane production is expressed as methane produced per live weight gain.

Cattle in India are a significant contributor to methane emissions, accounting for approximately 33% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Methane is primarily produced during the natural digestive process of cattle, with dairy cows being the primary culprits owing to their high feed intake and longer lifespan. A majority of cattle in the country are raised on small farms and fed low-quality feed, which leads to a low feed efficiency ratio, Dr. Muhammed said.

The study provides primary data on true methane emissions by cattle. The approach can be used worldwide for emission assessment, saud Prof. Michael Lee, senior author and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Harper Adams University, UK.

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