A farmer from Prince Edward Island, Canada, has found out that feeding his cattle seaweed could reduce greenhouse gases by up to 40%. Joe Dorgan is the founder of North Atlantics Organics, which produces and distributes organic seaweed. The seaweed near his farm was harvested for feed and fertilizer for five generations.
Dorgan knew from that experience that seaweed had a lot of potential, so he sent samples of it to Dalhousie University to test for organic certification. Through this, he found that the high uptake of natural vitamins and minerals in the seaweed drove up reproduction and milk production in cows. However, the research found something else. Seaweed makes cows less gassy.
Methane is responsible for 30% of global warming, and one-third of that type of pollution is from livestock such as cattle. Dorgan noted that the researchers discovered that feeding seaweed to cattle would reduce greenhouse gases by as much as 40%. The reason why cows are so gassy is due to digesting roughage. This requires extra digestion which in turn causes cows to burp more. Those burps emit methane.
In a single year, one cow typically emits as much greenhouse gas as a small car. And these numbers are growing due to the human population growing. Cows are a source of food for many people.
Yahoo! News noted that this motivated Rob Kinley, chief scientist at Futurefeed, to find a type of seaweed that has even more methane-reducing power. Kinley worked with Dorgan on his organic certification 15 years ago and noted that it took many runs of testing before they actually believed what they were seeing.
“We started testing seaweeds from coastal Australia, and it wasn’t long before the Asparagopsis species showed up, and it showed up in a big way. So big that we didn’t even believe what we were seeing. It took multiple runs of testing this before we believed what we were seeing, which was we couldn’t find methane anymore.”
His research found that Asparagopsis, which is a type of red seaweed, can practically eliminate methane emissions from livestock. However, there are challenges and one key challenge is harvesting from the ocean. Another scientist, Josh Goldman who is the project leader at Greener Grazing, noted that the way the seaweed shifts the ruminant function in the cow also makes it more energy efficient. He added that it only takes around 90 days to cultivate the seaweed, which allows for multiple cycles annually. It can also be grown by aquaculture operations anywhere as long as the climate is suitable.
Another challenge is feeding all of the cows. There are 1.5 billion worldwide. But Goldman noted that they only need to be fed 0.2% of their daily rations. Another challenge is convincing the owners of all the cattle to use the seaweed supplement. However, this could be solved by the fact that cows would consume less food while possibly also allowing the farmers to sell carbon credits.
Featured photo by Jean-Pascal Quod (CC BY-SA 3.0 license)
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