Feeding Cows Seaweed Could Curb Worldwide Greenhouse Gas Levels

Posted: Oct 20 2016, 5:58am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 

Feeding Cows Seaweed Could Curb Worldwide Greenhouse Gas Levels
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  • Putting Seaweed in the Feed of Cattle could Curb Worldwide Greenhouse Gas Levels
 

Apparently by putting seaweed in the feed of cattle the worldwide greenhouse gas levels could be curbed.

Research that took place in Australia could help mitigate the effect agriculture has on the world’s climate. The hint came from the field of aquaculture. The impact seaweed has on cow methane emission was studied by scientists.

By adding a bit of desiccated seaweed to the diet of cows, the methane emissions could be curbed by upto 99%. Over 20 species of seaweed were tested and ultimately it all narrowed down to one species of red seaweed. 

It has been termed Asparagopsis taxiformis. This seaweed is very common off the coast of Queensland and has been collected in large quantities. Methane gas is the largest pollutant that arises from the agriculture industry.

The majority of the methane comes from burping cows. The cow flatulence on the other hand accounts only for a small amount of methane gas release.

An artificial cow’s stomach was used to test this seaweed and its effects on methane emissions. By collecting a little bit of the rumen, scientists than added some red seaweed to it. As the components fermented, gas pressure was built up.  

The setup is very similar to a compost heap. By measuring the pressure of the resultant gas, the scientists determined which feed caused what effect.

From here it was one small step to real and whole animals. This experiment has proven to be successful with sheep too. When the seaweed formed 2% of their diet, their methane emissions were reduced by 50% or 70%, according to ABCNews.

This was over a 72 day period of time. The very image of cows munching away on feed with seaweed added to it can be a source of much humor but it is a case of truth being stranger than fiction. 

The seaweed is to be dried. Then it can be sprinkled on top of the feed like herbs and spices on top of a roast chicken. Also the weight gain (if any) in the cattle will be noted down by the scientists who will continuously monitor the experiment.

However, there is only one hitch. That is getting enough seaweed for this experiment to be translated into reality on the long term basis. Wild harvesting is a risky proposal since it is too costly.

Besides, the resources are lacking for such a venture. Production of the red seaweed in cultivation centers is a more viable bet that just might deliver in the long run.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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