Farmers reduce cattle methane emissions by 99%… Here’s how!
August 9, 2018
Methane emissions from cattle have contributed significantly to climate change and were a driving focal point of the 2014 pro-vegan film, Cowspiracy. In 2017, researchers began studying the effects of incorporating seaweed into cattle feed to reduce these emissions. Lo and behold, they were able to reduce the subjected cows’ methane emissions by up to 99%!
Cows and Climate Change
In 2015, The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that the livestock sector contributed 14.5 percent of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions with the majority of this coming from cattle.
Cattle are a special type of mammal called ‘ruminants’, which means they are able to digest cellulose-rich plants with the use of multiple specialized stomachs. This process is known as ‘enteric fermentation’ and it allows cattle to better obtain and absorb nutrients from their food, which would be otherwise undigestable. Unfortunately, because of the otherwise undigestable nature of their food, in the process of breaking it down, cattle tend to release much methane-infused flatulence (also known as the notorious “cow burps and farts problem“).
Over the course of a century, methane holds roughly 28 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide (CO2).
Seaweed as a Solution
In 2017, scientists in Australia began researching the effects of incorporating seaweed into cattle feed… and the results were shocking Preliminary results indicated that seaweed can reduce microbial methane emissions in cattle by up to 99%!
Researcher, Hanna Silwer, states in her thesis paper on macroalgae as feed supplement for
reduction of methane emission in livestock that the frontrunner of this research is a species of algae, asparagopsis taxiformis, found in tropical to warm temperate regions throughout the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific. At an algal inclusion of just 2% in cattle feed, researchers found that there were zero detectable amounts of methane in cattle emissions.
The University of California is now actively studying this breakthrough in an attempt to revolutionize the beef and dairy industry, increasing feed efficiency for farmers and drastically reducing the industry’s carbon footprint.