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News Article

Methane emission reduced in dairy cows fed macroalga

Antimethanogenic activity of macroalga Asparagopsis taxiformis determined

Feeding cattle on seaweed could lead to a significant reduction in methane production by livestock, according to Penn State researchers.

According to Alexander Hristov, distinguished professor of nutrition, the red seaweed, Asparagopsis taxiformis, in short-term studies in lactating dairy cows reduced methane emission by 80 percent and had no effect on feed intake or milk yield, when fed at up to 0.5 percent of feed dry matter intake.

However, Hristov noted that if seaweed supplementation is to make a difference globally, the scale of production would have to be immense. With nearly 1.5 billion head of cattle in the world, harvesting enough wild seaweed to feed them would be impossible. Even providing it as a supplement to most of the United States' 94 million cattle is unrealistic.

Hristov explained that for use as a feed additive on a large scale, the seaweed would have to be cultivated in aquaculture operations, adding that harvesting wild supplies is not an option as this would very quickly deplete stocks with ecological consequences.

Nevertheless, the researchers agree that the capability of A. taxiformis to reduce methane production requires further research. The findings will be presented to members of the American Dairy Science Association at their annual meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio during 23-26 June; the abstract is available online in the Proceedings of the 2019 American Dairy Science Association Meeting.

Another problem according to Hristov, is that while effective in the short term, the long-term effects of using the seaweed are as yet unknown. He explained that it is known that rumen microbes can adapt to feed additives and therefore long-term studies are needed to see if compounds in the seaweed continue to disrupt the microbes' ability to produce methane.

There are also questions about the stability over time of the active ingredients -- bromoforms -- in the seaweed. These compounds are sensitive to heat and sunlight and may lose their methane-mitigating activity with processing and storage, Hristov warned.

Palatability also seems to be an issue since cows do not like the taste of seaweed; seaweed included at 0.75 percent of the diet resulted in a drop in feed intake.

Furthermore, the long-term effects of seaweed on animal health and reproduction and its effects on milk and meat quality need to be determined. A panel judging milk taste is part of ongoing research, Hristov said.

Dose-response effect of the macroalga Asparagopsis taxiformis on enteric methane emission in lactating dairy cows. H. Stefenoni, S. Räisänen, A. Melgar, C. Lage, M. Young, A. Hristov. In Abstracts of the 2019 American Dairy Science Association Annual Meeting, 23-26 June 2019, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, W163, p. 378, American Dairy Science Association, Champaign, Illinois, USA (Journal of Dairy Science, Volume 102, Supplement 1)

Article details

  • Date
  • 18 June 2019
  • Source
  • Penn State
  • Subject(s)
  • Animal nutrition