Posted: March 2, 2020

A seaweed additive cuts livestock methane but poses questions.

Supplementing cattle feed with seaweed could significantly reduce methane belched by livestock, according to researchers in the college, but they caution that the practice may not be a realistic strategy to battle climate change.

"Asparagopsis taxiformis--a red seaweed that grows in the tropics--in short-term studies in lactating dairy cows decreased methane emission by 80 percent and had no effect on feed intake or milk yield, when fed at up to 0.5 percent of feed dry matter intake," said Alexander Hristov, Distinguished Professor of Dairy Nutrition. "It looks promising, and we are continuing research."

If seaweed feed supplement is a viable option to make a difference globally, the scale of production would have to be immense, Hristov noted.

"To be used as a feed additive on a large scale, the seaweed would have to be cultivated in aquaculture operations," he said. "Harvesting wild seaweed is not an option because soon we would deplete the oceans and cause an ecological problem."

Still, the capability of Asparagopsis taxiformis to mitigate enteric methane as a feed supplement demands attention, said Hannah Stefenoni, a graduate student working with Hristov on the project who presented the research to members of the American Dairy Science Association last summer.

--Jeff Mulhollem