June 27, 2018

US university studies benefits of feeding seaweed to cows


A research team at the University of California, Davis, US,had conducted the first study involving the feeding of seaweed to dairy cattle.

Cattle were fed diets that included 0.5% and 1% seaweed. Researchers measured enteric methane emissions, potential effects on the animal and milk production, and milk composition and taste. Preliminary findings show "well over 30%" reduction of enteric methane emissions.

Dr. Ermias Kebreab, who leads the team, anticipated publishing the research's results soon, with follow-up studies already planned. While the preliminary results offer an interesting insight, cost and market analysis are still required.

To feed California's 1.8 million dairy cows each a half pound of seaweed per day (about 1% of dry matter intake), it would require 164,250 tonnes of freeze-dried seaweed each year.

World demand for seaweed continues to outpace supply. Seaweed powder sold for food or cosmetic use can cost as much as US$18 to US$39 per pound. The species of seaweed used in the UC Davis research is not currently grown in California and is not native to the California coast.

More research and economic analysis will be needed to determine if seaweed can be sustainability produced to feed not only cattle in California, but across the globe.

Researchers continue to explore other potential feed additives. DSM, a Dutch company, is currently awaiting FDA approval and planning for commercial production of a feed additive they call "3NOP."

Experiments continue to look at potential impacts of 3NOP on milk, milk components, body weight and feed efficiency.

- Milk Producers Council (US)

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