Feeding Cattle a Bit of Seaweed Reduces Their Greenhouse Gas Emissions 82%

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A little bit of seaweed in livestock feed might decrease methane emissions from beef livestock as much as 82 percent, according to brand-new findings from scientists at the University of California, Davis. The results, released today (March 17, 2021) in the journal PLOS ONE, might lead the way for the sustainable production of animals throughout the world.

“We now have sound evidence that seaweed in cattle diet is effective at reducing greenhouse gases and that the efficacy does not diminish over time,” stated Ermias Kebreab, teacher and Sesnon Endowed Chair of the Department of Animal Science and director of the World Food Center. Kebreab carried out the research study in addition to his Ph.D. college student Breanna Roque.

“This could help farmers sustainably produce the beef and dairy products we need to feed the world,” Roque included.

Over the course of 5 months last summertime, Kebreab and Roque included little quantities of seaweed to the diet plan of 21 beef livestock and tracked their weight gain and methane emissions. Cattle that took in dosages of about 80 grams (3 ounces) of seaweed acquired as much weight as their herd mates while burping out 82 percent less methane into the environment. Kebreab and Roque are constructing on their earlier deal with dairy livestock, which was the world’s very first experiment reported that utilized seaweed in livestock.

Less gassy, more sustainable

Greenhouse gases are a significant reason for environment modification, and methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. Agriculture is accountable for 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., and half of those originated from cows and other ruminant animals that belch methane and other gases throughout the day as they absorb forages like yard and hay.

Since livestock are the leading farming source of greenhouse gases, lots of have actually recommended individuals consume less meat to assist attend to environment modification. Kebreab wants to livestock nutrition rather.

“Only a tiny fraction of the earth is fit for crop production,” Kebreab described. “Much more land is suitable only for grazing, so livestock plays a vital role in feeding the 10 billion people who will soon inhabit the planet. Since much of livestock’s methane emissions come from the animal itself, nutrition plays a big role in finding solutions.”

Steer at UC Davis Beef Barn

This guide at UC Davis was fed a percentage of seaweed that led to a remarkable drop in methane emissions. Credit: Breanna Roque/UC Davis

In 2018, Kebreab and Roque had the ability to decrease methane emissions from dairy cows by over 50 percent by supplementing their diet plan with seaweed for 2 weeks. The seaweed prevents an enzyme in the cow’s digestion system that adds to methane production.

In the brand-new research study, Kebreab and Roque evaluated whether those decreases were sustainable in time by feeding cows a touch of seaweed every day for 5 months, from the time they were young on the variety through their later days on the feed lot.

Four times a day, the cows consumed a treat from an outdoor device that determined the methane in their breath. The outcomes were clear. Cattle that took in seaweed given off much less methane, and there was no drop-off in effectiveness in time.

Next actions

Results from a taste-test panel discovered no distinctions in the taste of the beef from seaweed-fed guides compared to a control group. Similar tests with dairy livestock revealed that seaweed had no influence on the taste of milk.

Also, researchers are studying methods to farm the kind of seaweed — Asparagopsis taxiformis — that Kebreab’s group utilized in the tests. There is insufficient of it in the wild for broad application.

Another obstacle: How do ranchers offer seaweed supplements to grazing livestock on the open variety? That’s the topic of Kebreab’s next research study.

Kebreab and Roque teamed up with a federal clinical company in Australia called the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, James Cook University in Australia, Meat and Livestock Australia, and Blue Ocean Barns, a start-up business that sources, procedures, markets and accredits seaweed-based ingredients to livestock feed. Kebreab is a clinical consultant to Blue Ocean Barns.

“There is more work to be done, but we are very encouraged by these results,” Roque stated. “We now have a clear answer to the question of whether seaweed supplements can sustainably reduce livestock methane emissions and its long term effectiveness.”

Reference: 17 March 2021, PLOS ONE.

Funding: Blue Ocean Barns, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Grantham Foundation

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