The Livestock Side Of GREENHOUSE
FEEDBACK BY DR MUJEEB FAZILI
The write-up by Professor M.S.Khuroo about BELCHING (Greater Kashmir on 4th of November, 2011) was interesting and informative. As expected the learned doctor has nicely described the social, psychological and medical aspects of Daakur. To me, as a student of Veterinary Sciences, the additional interesting part was inclusion of some details of the phenomenon in animals and particularly the role of animals in producing the greenhouse effect. Prof. Khuroo deserves applause for promoting the current concept of one health in his writings.
In the following few lines, I wish to add some more details pertaining to this important issue.
The greenhouse effect is a naturally occurring process that aids in heating the Earth’s surface and atmosphere. It results from the fact that certain atmospheric gases, such as carbon dioxide, water vapour and methane, are able to change the energy balance of the planet by absorbing long wave radiation emitted from the Earth’s surface. Without the greenhouse effect life on the planet would probably not exist as the average temperature of the Earth would be a chilly -180 Celsius, rather than the present 150 Celsius.
A number of gases are involved in the human caused enhancement of the greenhouse effect. Of these gases, the single most important gas is carbon dioxide which accounts for about 55% of the change in the intensity of the Earth’s greenhouse effect. The contribution of methane gas has been estimated as 15% to 18%. The scientists predict that this increase may enhance the greenhouse effect making the planet warmer. Some experts estimate that the Earth’s average global temperature has already increased by 0.30 to 0.60 Celsius, since the beginning of this century. Predictions of future climates indicate that by the middle of the next century the Earth’s global temperature may be 10 to 30 Celsius higher than today.
Methane emissions from livestock have two components: emission from ‘enteric fermentation’ and ‘manure management’. Ruminant animals, such as cattle, sheep, buffalo, and goats, are unique. Because of their special digestive systems, they can convert otherwise unusable plant materials into nutritious food and fiber. The plant material containing cellulose, that can be digested only by special microbes that, to minimize commuting problems, live in the ruminants’ guts. Unfortunately, the microbes aren’t as thorough as one might like, and about 6 or 7 percent of what they eat winds up as methane. Fermentation in the rumen generates enormous, even frightening quantities of gas; 30-50 liters per hour in adult cattle and about 5 liters per hour in a sheep or goat. This microbial fermentation process, referred to as ‘enteric fermentation’, produces methane as a byproduct, which is released mainly through eructation and normal respiration, and a small quantity as flatus. Methane is also produced during anaerobic decomposition of livestock manure by anaerobic (thriving without oxygen only) and facultative (thriving with and without oxygen) bacteria. Data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations indicates that ruminants are responsible for roughly 20% of global methane emissions, which equates to approximately 3 to 5% of total greenhouse gas production. The animal methane thus presents a definite threat to the biota.
India is trapped in a complex situation with cross-cutting issues. With 1.21 billion people, is the second most populous country in the world? With the population growth rate at 1.58%, India is predicted to have more than 1.53 billion people by the end of 2030. The human over population living here have to be provided with sustained food security. It is an established fact that the livestock sector has the potential to grow faster than any other agricultural sub-sector. It provides livelihood to millions and contributes substantially to the agricultural output. For many poor farmers livestock are also a source of renewable energy for draft and an essential source of organic fertilizer for their crops. Additionally, with increased prosperity, people are consuming more meat and dairy products every year. Thus the requirement of animals as source of balanced human food for the present and the future generations and the capacity of this sector to generate employment can’t be ignored or over looked.
Simultaneously, this country is home to the largest number of livestock (485 million); being first in respect of buffaloes (57% of world) and cattle (16% of world), second in goats, third in sheep and sixth in camel population. Dairy buffalo and indigenous dairy cattle together contribute 60% of the total methane emission. In addition to these grazing animals, rice cultivation (flooded with water providing anaerobic environment to the microbes present in manure) is another major source of methane. In fact ninety percent (90%) of the world’s rice paddies are concentrated in Asia. India and China together constitute its 60%. The total methane emission from Indian livestock, which includes enteric fermentation and manure management, was 11.75 Tg for 2003. Enteric fermentation accounts for 10.65 Tg (~91%) compared to 1.09 Tg (~9%) by manure management. The story of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is also not different. The current human population of 1.25 crore showed growth of 23.71% during last one decade. Simultaneously, the livestock population showed an increase of 7.3% between 1997 and 2003.
Considering the threat to the existence of fauna and flora due to the global warming urgent action to remedy the situation is required. Efforts need to be directed to discourage the increase in low yielding grazing animal population. The most promising approach for reducing methane emissions from animals is by improving the productivity and efficiency of livestock production. The current milk production in India is 956 litres /cow /year while as in USA it is 8,400 litres /cow/year. With breed of cows like those in the United States, India’s total dairy herd could be cut to one-ninth its current size. Greater efficiency of livestock production can increase profitability and be good for the environment at the same time. To achieve the desired goals well designed breeding policy for all the food animals, its strict implementation, scientific livestock management and feeding, disease forecasting, prevention and management are some of the areas requiring urgent attention. The particular practices to improve production will depend on the circumstances of operation, including the goals to be achieved and the natural, financial, and labor resources available. The local institutions directly involved in livestock research, teaching and extension along with the agencies implementing the scientific practices in the field need to be upgraded to meet the various challenges. Time has come to take the matter much more seriously not only by the government but also by all the stake holders and the public at large. By producing meat and milk with the most efficient herd possible, the global environment as well as our own economy will benefit. We will then leave a better place for our progeny to live.
Dr.Mujeeb Fazili is Associate Professor (Surgery), Teaching Veterinary Clinical Complex, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, SKUAST, Kashmir.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 22 Nov 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 22 Nov 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 23 Nov 2011 00:00:00 IST
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