Re­searchers feed sea­weed to dairy cows to re­duce emis­sions

Manteca Bulletin - - Local -

DAVIS (AP) — 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 heat­trap­ping gas many times more po­tent than car­bon diox­ide.

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