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.”
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.
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.”
“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.”
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