Study tests whether seaweed in cattle feed reduces emissions

In this June 8, 2018 image taken from video, dairy cows eat feed mixed with seaweed in a dairy farm at the University of California, Davis, in Davis, Calif. UC Davis is studying whether adding small amounts of seaweed to cattle feed can help reduce their emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that's released when cattle burp, pass gas or make manure. Dairy farms and other livestock operations are major sources of methane. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)

California researchers are trying to determine whether adding small amounts of seaweed to cattle feed will reduce the animals' emissions of a potent greenhouse gas.

DAVIS, Calif. — University of California researchers are feeding seaweed to dairy cows in an attempt to make cattle more climate-friendly.

UC Davis is studying whether adding small amounts of seaweed to cattle feed can help reduce their emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that's released when cattle burp, pass gas or make manure.

In a study this past spring, researchers found methane emissions were reduced by more than 30 percent in a dozen Holstein cows that ate the ocean algae, which was mixed into their feed and sweetened with molasses to disguise the salty taste.

"I was extremely surprised when I saw the results," said Ermias Kebreab, the UC Davis animal scientist who led the study. "I wasn't expecting it to be that dramatic with a small amount of seaweed."

Kebreab says his team plans to conduct a six-month study of a seaweed-infused diet in beef cattle starting in October.

More studies will be needed to determine its safety and efficacy, and seaweed growers would have to ramp up production to make it an economical option for farmers.

Dairy farms and other livestock operations are major sources of methane, a heat-trapping gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Researchers worldwide have searched for ways to reduce cattle emissions with various food additives such as garlic, oregano, cinnamon and even curry — with mixed results.

If successful, adding seaweed to cattle feed could help California dairy farms comply with a state law requiring livestock operators to cut emissions by 40 percent from 2013 levels by 2030.

"If we can reduce methane on the dairy farm through manipulation of the diet, then it's a win for consumers because it reduces the carbon footprint, and it's for dairy farmers because it increases their feed efficiency," said Michael Hutjens, an animal scientist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Editor's Picks

4 malnourished Hawaiian monk seals taken to hospital

Aug 25, 2016

Biologists say four malnourished Hawaiian monk seals have been taken from remote atolls to a Big Island hospital for the endangered animals to be fed fish and fluids to boost their weight

SpaceX Dragon returns to Earth with station science, gear

Aug 26, 2016

A SpaceX Dragon capsule is back on Earth with scientific gifts from the International Space Station

Obama creates world's largest marine protected area

Aug 26, 2016

President Barack Obama will quadruple in size a marine national monument created by President George W. Bush a decade ago

About Us

Science Buzz is a user-friendly website which concentrates on news for the Big Three: Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.

Contact us: sales@thescnbuzz.com