Climate change Environment

Seaweeds in cattle feed has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cattle by 82%, US researchers say

Researchers from the University of California have found that feeding cattle seaweeds reduces their methane emissions by 82%. These findings could pave the way for the sustainable production of livestock across the world.

Greenhouse gases through human activities are a major contributing factor to climate change, and methane gas is a potent gas. Agriculture is also largely responsible for greenhouse gas emissions with a larger percentage coming from cows and other ruminant animals; that belch methane and other gases throughout the day as they digest forages like grass and hay.

Since cattle production is the top agricultural source of greenhouse gases, it has been suggested for people to have less diet of meat to help address climate change.

The researchers, Kebreab and Roque over five months added scant amounts of seaweed to the diet of 21 beef cattle and tracked their weight gain and methane emissions. The cattle that consumed 80 grams of seaweed gained much weight as their herd mates while burping out 82% less methane gas. The researchers had also carried the same study in 2018 on dairy cows by supplementing their diet with seaweeds for two weeks. Through the study were able to reduce methane emissions by over 50%.

The researchers also tested the sustainability of reductions over time by feeding cows a touch of seaweed every day for five months. Four times a day, the cows ate a snack from an open-air contraption that measured methane in their breath. The results were, cattle that fed on seaweed emitted much less methane, and there was no drop in efficacy over time.

The seaweed inhibits an enzyme in the cow’s digestive system that contributes to methane production.
Feeding cattle on seaweeds has no impact on the flavor of its products. Results from the taste-test found no difference in the flavor of beef from seaweed-feed steers compared with the control group and so was milk from dairy cattle.

Kebreab said, “we now have sound evidence that seaweed in cattle diet is effective at reducing greenhouse gases and that efficacy does not diminish over time.” “This could help farmers sustainably produce the beef and dairy products we need to feed the world,” Roque added.

Researchers noted there’s much work to be done on the study but the results they had were quite encouraging. Roque added, “we have now a clear answer to the question of whether seaweed supplements can sustainably reduce livestock methane emissions and its long-term effectiveness.”

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