Testing Continues to Expand for Cow/Methane/Seaweed Relationship

methane cow seaweed

Is there more out there than Asparagopsis to feed the cows?


The global commercial seaweeds’ market size is expected to reach USD$29.39 Billion in 2028, according to ResearchAndMarkets. Rising awareness regarding the multiple health-benefits of consuming seaweeds including high content of fibers, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants is a major factor expected to drive market growth. Additionally, seaweed as additives for animal feed, and seaweed-extracts as gelling and thickening agents in cosmetics and certain foods are other key factors boosting the growth of the global commercial seaweed market.

Scientists in the United States and Australia have already demonstrated dramatic methane-reducing qualities from one seaweed species — Asparagopsis — when added to feedstock. Now scientists are combing Ireland’s west coast for seaweed to feed to cattle and sheep after research showed it could stop them breathing out so much climate-warming methane. The project, coordinated by a state agriculture body, is tapping into the country’s growing seaweed harvesting industry, which is seeking new markets as it revives centuries-old traditions.

Reuters reports that around 20 species of seaweed, most from Ireland’s windswept Atlantic coast, have been tested by researchers while dozens more have been collected by the project’s partners in Norway, Canada, Sweden, Germany and the United Kingdom.

But they have not yet managed to scale up production of the difficult to grow species. The Irish project intends to find abundant native seaweeds to use instead, even though the researchers admit they are unlikely to match the reduction in emissions of over 80% shown with Asparagopsis.

“We have identified some brown seaweeds that are very positive and they’re producing results,” said Maria Hayes, Project Lead of the SeaSolutions project, whose team has achieved methane reductions of between 11% and 20% in early trials.

Meanwhile, cattle on British and Irish farms are to be fed seaweed as part of a project being led by academics from Queen’s University Belfast, involving wild seaweed harvested from the Irish and North seas.

As reported in the Irish Mirror, the research in Australia and the US indicating that seaweed feeds can lead to a dramatic reduction — up to 80% — in methane released by cows and sheep have used red seaweed that grows in warmer climates. Scientists at the Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS) at Queen’s said red seaweed also contains high levels of bromoform, known to be damaging to the ozone layer. Seaweed indigenous to the UK and Ireland tends to be brown or green and does not contain bromoform.

The IGFS academics said the homegrown seaweed also is rich in active compounds called phlorotannins, found in red wine and berries, which are anti-bacterial and improve immunity. They said the feed could therefore have additional health benefits for animals.

A three-year project in partnership with the UK supermarket Morrisons and its network of British beef farmers will facilitate farm trials. Those trials also involve the Northern Ireland-based Agrifood and Biosciences Institute (AFBI).

Another project sees IGFS, and the Northern Ireland-based Agrifood and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) join a two million Euro international project — led by Irish Agriculture and Food Development Agency, An Teagasc — to monitor the effects of seaweed in the diet of pasture-based livestock. In that project, seaweed will be added to grass-based silage on farm trials involving dairy cows in Northern Ireland from early 2022.


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