Effort to reduce methane at University of California, Davis dairy showing promise

The life of a dairy cow seems simple enough. Drink, eat, graze, give milk and produce waste is pretty much what being a dairy farm cow is all about with emphasis on the waste part for purposes of this discussion.

Well, there is a considerable amount of research being done right now at University of California at Davis to lessen the intensity of methane – a potent greenhouse gas, more potent than carbon dioxide – the part that’s contributed by dairy cows, anyway.

That research going on in this area is spelled out in a May 24, 2018 UC Davis news release titled: “Can Seaweed Cut Methane Emissions on Dairy Farms? – Expert Sees Dramatic Reduction When Cows Consume Seaweed Supplement.”

A small amount of macro red algae, a type of seaweed, is mixed with molasses and cattle feed in a research project by UC Davis Professor Ermias Kebreab to see what extent seaweed may be able to reduce methane emissions from dairy cows.

Diane Nelson of UC Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences writes: “Seaweed may be the super food dairy cattle need to reduce the amount of methane they burp into the atmosphere.” Cow burping is only one source of dairy produced methane emissions. Flatulence and manure account for the rest. At any rate, “Early results from research at the University of California, Davis, indicate that just a touch of the ocean algae in cattle feed could dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions from California’s 1.8 million dairy cows,” Nelson in the release went on to state.

Seaweed, eh?

Groundbreaking research regarding the adding of seaweed to dairy cattle feed was conducted in Australia, a point, in the news release, which is elaborated upon further.

“During lab tests last year, researchers in Australia found that just 2 percent seaweed in cattle feed could reduce methane emissions by 99 percent. The seaweed apparently inhibits an enzyme that contributes to methane production.”

Professor Ermias Kebreab with the UC Davis Department of Animal Science is conducting research with 12 dairy cows to find out if adding a small amount of seaweed to cattle feed will reduce methane emissions from cows. Preliminary results are highly promising.

“To test seaweed efficacy, [animal science professor and Sesnon Endowed Chair Ermias] Kebreab and animal nutrition graduate student Breanne Roque have separated 12 cows into three groups. Two groups are fed with different doses of seaweed, and one group’s feed has no seaweed at all. They rotate through the two-week feeding regimens with a weeklong seaweed fast in between.

“Four times a day, cows get a snack from an open-air contraption that measures the methane in their breath as they eat the treat.”

An open-air contraption measures the methane in the cows’ breath as they eat a treat. This is being done as part of a research project by UC Davis Professor Ermias Kebreab to see what extent seaweed in cattle feed can help reduce methane emissions.

In the trials at UC Davis, with a bit of molasses mixed into the feed, so far results from the research look really encouraging.

“But,” as Nelson makes clear, “there is still a lot to learn before farmers should consider feeding cattle seaweed.”

To find more about the seaweed research being conducted at UC Davis, see: “Can Seaweed Cut Methane Emissions on Dairy Farms? – Expert Sees Dramatic Reduction When Cows Consume Seaweed Supplement” here.

Images (all): Gregory Urquiaga, UC Davis

2 thoughts on “Effort to reduce methane at University of California, Davis dairy showing promise

  1. Do you think that seaweed added to our diet would also reduce that number of farts and methane gases we also make?

  2. I’ll plow this ground yet some more. Maybe somebody will step up and ‘splain scientifically how/why I’ve got it wrong – or not.
    Radiative Green House Effect theory: (Do I understand RGHE theory correctly?)
    1) 288 K – 255 K = 33 C warmer with atmosphere – rubbish. (simple observation & Nikolov & Kramm)
    But how, exactly is that supposed to work?
    2) There is a 333 W/m^2 0.04% GHG up/down/”back” energy loop that traps/re-emits per QED simultaneously warming BOTH the atmosphere and the surface. Good trick. Too bad it’s not real. – thermodynamic nonsense.
    And where does this magical GHG energy loop first get that energy?
    3) From the 16 C/289 K/396 W/m^2 S-B 1.0 ε BB radiation upwelling from the surface. – which due to the non-radiative heat transfer participation of the atmospheric molecules is simply not possible. (TFK_bams09)
    No BB upwelling & no GHG energy loop & no 33 C warmer means no RGHE theory & no CO2 warming & no man caused climate change.
    Got science? Bring it!!

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