Scientists are incorporating seaweed into cattle feed to combat climate change

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Listen: farts and burps are never pretty, but cows have gotten a bad rap because their methane-rich gas has been shown to significantly contribute to climate change.

Don’t worry bovine friends! Some scientists in Northern Ireland are working hard to reduce methane emissions. They have modified the feed used by cattle.

“Seaweed additives can reduce methane substantially in ruminants,”Sharon Huws from Queen’s University is a professor of Animal Science and Microbiology. “In particular, the red seaweed has been shown to reduce methane by 80 percent.”

To determine if seaweed can affect the release of methane gas by ruminants (e.g., cattle, sheep, deer and goats), it has been tested.

Huws claims seaweed can be added to animal feeds to reduce methane release without reducing the herd size. 

“What we are trying to get to by 2030 is to actually reduce methane by 30 percent from ruminants,”She notes.

According to some estimates, there are approximately one billion cows worldwide. A study by Washington State University and Colorado State University found that each head of livestock can produce 250 to 500 liters per day. 

Adding local seaweed to animal feed has already proved effective in Australia, where a 2020 study showed replacing three percent of a cow’s diet with a native Australian seaweed decreased the methane produced by 80 percent.

Professor Huws believes that the UK study will show a minimum of a 30% reduction in methane. However, she is hopeful to see more.

“We are in a climate emergency,”She said. “There is no doubt about that. We have to solve climate change. We can not keep on going in the direction that we are going in.”

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