Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

A farmer-friendly solution to cut cattle methane emissions

A farmer-friendly solution to cut cattle methane emissions

#GS3 #Environmental Degradation #Agriculture resources #Air Pollution

Context: Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has developed an anti-Methanogenic feed supplement ‘Harit Dhara’ (HD).

Methane Emissions from Cattle:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Methane’s global warming potential – 25 times of carbon dioxide (CO2) over 100 years, makes it a more potent greenhouse gas, which is a cause of concern.
  • 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.

Methane Production in Cattle:

  • Rumen, the first of the four stomachs where they eat plant material, cellulose, fibre, starch and sugars. These get 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.

About Harit Dhara:

  • 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.
  • “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.
  • It is a win-win for both the environment and livestock farmers.


  • HD decreases the population of protozoa microbes in the rumen, responsible for hydrogen production and making it available to the archaea (structure similar to bacteria) for reduction of CO2 to methane.
  • It has been made from tannin-rich plant-based sources. Tropical plants containing tannins, bitter and astringent chemical compounds, are known to suppress or remove protozoa from the rumen.
  • Fermentation after using HD will help produce more propionic acid, which provides more energy for lactose (milk sugar) production and body weight gain.
  • The biological energy loss from methane emission can be rechannelled and utilised by the animal for milk production and growth.
  • 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.

Government Initiatives related to Livestock:

  • Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF) set up to support private investment in Dairy Processing, value addition and cattle feed infrastructure.
  • Rashtriya Gokul Mission which is aimed at developing and conserving indigenous breeds of bovine population.
  • National Livestock Mission to ensure quantitative and qualitative improvement in livestock production systems and capacity building of all stakeholders.
  • National Programme for Bovine Breeding: This programme is being implemented for enhancing productivity of the milch animals through extension of Artificial Insemination (AI) coverage.
    • This is done through establishment of Multi-Purpose AI Technicians in Rural India (MAITRIs); strengthening of existing AI centres; monitoring of AI etc
  • National Animal Disease Control Programme.
  • National Artificial Insemination Programme.

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