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CAB Review

Ration balancing at farmers' doorstep: a climate-smart strategy for sustainable increase in livestock productivity in developing countries.


In recent years, the share of developing countries in global milk production has increased significantly. Despite the breakthroughs in milk production, average productivity of livestock is quite low in the region, mainly because of imbalanced feeding in terms of protein, energy and minerals. Farmers do not have adequate knowledge, resources and skills to formulate a least cost balanced ration. Feed shortages notwithstanding in the region, considerable potential exists for improving livestock productivity and reducing the carbon footprint of milk by ration balancing with available feed resources. The National Dairy Development Board of India has developed a user-friendly ration balancing software for preparing a least cost balanced ration, using available feed resources and area-specific mineral mixtures. To educate farmers, a large-scale ration balancing programme has been implemented in different states of India. Various studies indicate that ration balancing has resulted in an increase in farmers' net daily income by increasing milk yield or milk fat, while reducing feeding costs. Ration balancing has also helped improve feed conversion efficiency and microbial protein synthesis, while reducing enteric methane emissions. A study on the cradle-to-farm gate life cycle assessment of lifetime milk production indicated that enteric methane is the largest contributor to the carbon footprint of milk. A significant reduction in the carbon footprint of milk has been observed when feeding a balanced ration. The present review summarizes the application of ration balancing approach at the farmers' doorstep that could serve as a climate-smart strategy for achieving sustainable increases in livestock productivity in developing countries.