Seaweed vs Cattle Methane

Elm Innovations

Elm Innovations is catalyzing innovators in the U.S. dairy industry and climate-concerned foundations around the use of a specific seaweed additive to cattle ...


Beef: America’s dinner and a juicy climate controversy

... Beef, responsible for roughly 6% of greenhouse gas emissions, is the single biggest food factor when it comes to climate change, according to a 2013 United Nations report.

On the real beef side, Elm Innovations, a nonprofit founded in 2016, is working with researchers at University of California, Davis, to feed cattle a supplement of particular kind of seaweed.

“The seaweed very dramatically reduces cow-burped methane to the tune of 50% or greater, which is extremely large,” said the group’s founder, Joan King Salwen, whose family had a cattle and sheep ranch....


Joan King Salwen - Continuing Fellow, Distinguished Careers Institute ...

Elm Innovations accelerates the impact of livestock innovations that regenerate soil health, reduce their reliance on fresh water, and protect the atmosphere.


California scientists hope feeding cows seaweed will make them less gassy — which could be great news for the environment
by Jeff Daniels

..."From the cows, half of the methane emissions is from the belching of the animal and the other half is from the manure," said Ermias Kebreab, one of the researchers behind cows consuming seaweed and an animal-science professor at the University of California-Davis. "You can use additives such as seaweed to try to reduce the methane that's belched out of the animal."

Kebreab and his team are demonstrating the seaweed project this week and plan to publish preliminary findings in late June and begin further tests with additional cattle later this summer.

According to Kebreab, the project is supported by several non-profits, including Elm Innovations, an organization out of Stanford University. Another contributor is the 11th Hour Project — a program of the Schmidt Family Foundation, a private foundation created by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

"This is really the first trial on dairy cattle that's been done ever in the world," Kebreab said. "From what I've seen so far, it seems to work quite well. But there's a lot of stuff we need to do before this can be a viable solution."

Based on preliminary findings, Kebreab said a touch of seaweed added to the cattle's diet appears to reduce dairy cow's gassiness by "well over 30 percent."

Kebreab said the methane emissions could be lowered even more by increasing the seaweed concentration used from about 1 percent to 2 percent of the cow's diet.

The researcher said cows usually consume about 50 pounds of feed per day, and the seaweed mixture represents only around half a pound of the animal's diet. There's been no drop in milk yields on the cows using the seaweed additive.

"You're not changing the main diet of the animal," he said. "It's just a matter of mixing the additive to their diet and providing the seaweed."..


Can seaweed make cow burps less potent? These UC Davis scientists hope to find out
By Benjy Egel

Early indications of a UC Davis study show feeding dairy cows seaweed may reduce methane emissions caused by their belching, the university announced Thursday.

UC Davis animal science professor Ermias Kebreab and animal biology PhD candidate Breanna Roque separated 12 Holstein cows into three groups, two of which received different doses of seaweed in their feed and one of which got no seaweed at all.

"The numbers we’re seeing are amazing — well beyond the target that farmers will need to reach," Kebreab said in a media release. "This is a very surprising and promising development."

The two test groups eat seaweed sweetened with molasses for two weeks at a time before returning to a normal diet for a week. Each cow eats a snack from an open-air device that simultaneously measures their breath's methane content. Their milk is also tested for yield, flavor and nutritional content throughout the experiment...

“Results are not final, but so far we are seeing substantial emission reductions," Kebreab said. "This could help California’s dairy farmers meet new methane-emission standards and sustainably produce the dairy products we need to feed the world.”

An Australian lab found in 2016 that making seaweed two percent of a cow's feed could inhibiting gas-producing enzymes and cut methane emissions by 99 percent. The UC Davis experiment is the first to test the theory on live animals, according to the university...


Study: Seaweed in Cow Feed Reduces Methane Emissions Almost Entirely

A recent study by researchers at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, has found a certain type of Australian red algae can significantly inhibit methane emissions from cows. Led by Professor of Aquaculture Rocky De Nys, researchers found an addition of less than 2 percent dried seaweed to a cow’s diet can reduce methane emissions by 99 percent. The study was conducted in collaboration with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), an Australian federal research agency.

Methane is about 25-times more potent than carbon dioxide in a 100-year time span, and a single cow releases between 70 and 120 kilograms of methane per year. Burps from cows account for 26 percent of the United States’ total methane emissions, and the U.S. is only the world’s fourth-largest producer of cattle, behind China, Brazil, and India. There are currently approximately 1.3 to 1.5 billion cows roaming the planet.

Researchers started investigating the potential effect of seaweed on cows in 2005, when a dairy farmer named Joe Dorgan inadvertently conducted an experiment on his herd in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Dorgan noticed cows that grazed on washed-up seaweed in paddocks along the shore were healthier and more productive than those that stayed in the field. He began feeding his cows a mixture of local storm-tossed seaweed and found the new diet saved him money and induced “rip-roaring heats,” or longer cycles of reproductive activity.

Dorgan is not the first farmer to discover the beneficial properties of seaweed in farm animals. The practice was used by Ancient Greeks in 100 B.C, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. There are also records of Icelandic farmers using kelp and algae to keep livestock healthy and produce larger milk yields.

A 2014 study by Canadian researchers Rob Kinley and Alan Fredeen confirmed the results of Dorgan’s experiment and found, in addition, that “feeding seaweeds and macroalgal products has been shown to reduce enteric methane emission from rumen fermentation.” In short, seaweed can reduce the amount of methane cows emit into the atmosphere with their gas. Kinley joined De Nys in Australia two years later to conduct further in vitro tests.

Kinley and De Nys tested 20 different species of seaweed on bacteria found in the stomachs of cows. They discovered seaweed reduced methane production by up to 50 percent, depending on the amount administered. But methane reduction at notable levels required high doses of seaweed, almost 20 percent by weight of the sample. This large percentage of seaweed would be difficult to implement outside of the lab and would likely have a negative effect on cow’s digestion.

When the researchers tested a species of red algae called Asparagopsis taxiformis that grows off the coast of Queensland, Australia, they found it reduced methane production by more than 99 percent in the lab. In addition, it only required a dose of less than 2 percent to work effectively. Upon digestion, Asparagopsis produces a compound called Bromoform (CHBR3), which interacts with enzymes in ruminant stomachs and halts the cycle of methane production before the gas is released into the atmosphere.

In 2011, Dorgan sold his dairy farm in order to start selling seaweed-infused cow feed full-time. The company he part-owns, North Atlantic Organics, uses traditional methods of seaweed production like hand-raking and solar drying to reduce its carbon footprint and ensure the final product is free of additives...

Asparagopsis Taxiformis Credit: Jean-Pascal Quod

However, researchers and farmers will have to overcome considerable roadblocks before the technique can be implemented on an industrial scale. Most dairy and cattle operations are located inland, far from the sea and its supply of seaweed. More importantly, producing enough Asparagopsis to feed even 10 percent of Australia’s feedlot and dairy cattle would require upwards of 15,000 acres of commercial seaweed farms. Wild harvesting could work on a farm-by-farm basis, but the practice becomes unfeasible on a large scale.

“That is the number one barrier — getting enough seaweed to feed to millions of cows,” Kinley said in an interview with Australia’s ABC news.

Animal Production Science, 56 (3). pp. 282-289. (2016)

The red macroalgae Asparagopsis taxiformis is a potent natural antimethanogenic that reduces methane production during in vitro fermentation with rumen fluid
Kinley, Robert D., de Nys, Rocky, Vucko, Matthew J., Machado, Lorenna, and Tomkins, Nigel W.

Livestock feed modification is a viable method for reducing methane emissions from ruminant livestock. Ruminant enteric methane is responsible approximately to 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia. Some species of macroalgae have antimethanogenic activity on in vitro fermentation. This study used in vitro fermentation with rumen inoculum to characterise increasing inclusion rates of the red macroalga Asparagopsis taxiformis on enteric methane production and digestive efficiency throughout 72-h fermentations. At dose levels 1% of substrate organic matter there was minimal effect on gas and methane production. However, inclusion 2% reduced gas and eliminated methane production in the fermentations indicating a minimum inhibitory dose level. There was no negative impact on substrate digestibility for macroalgae inclusion 5%, however, a significant reduction was observed with 10% inclusion. Total volatile fatty acids were not significantly affected with 2% inclusion and the acetate levels were reduced in favour of increased propionate and, to a lesser extent, butyrate which increased linearly with increasing dose levels. A barrier to commercialisation of Asparagopsis is the mass production of this specific macroalgal biomass at a scale to provide supplementation to livestock. Another area requiring characterisation is the most appropriate method for processing (dehydration) and feeding to livestock in systems with variable feed quality and content. The in vitro assessment method used here clearly demonstrated that Asparagopsis can inhibit methanogenesis at very low inclusion levels whereas the effect in vivo has yet to be confirmed.


Journal of Applied Phycology, December 2015, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 2387–2393

In vitro evaluation of feeding North Atlantic stormtoss seaweeds on ruminal digestion
R. D. Kinley, A. H. Fredeen

Feeding seaweeds and macroalgal products has been shown to reduce enteric methane emission from rumen fermentation. On Prince Edward Island, Canada, stormtoss shoreweed (SHW) consists of variable seaweed proportions of Chondrus crispus (Irish moss; IM), Laminaria longicruris, and Fucus vesiculosus. The impact of invasion by Furcellaria spp. (FF) and its increasing proportion in SHW harvests on feeding value has not been evaluated. The aim of this study was to determine effects of feeding SHW on ruminal fermentation and methane production. Effects were assessed in vitro using continuous culture with pooled rumen inocula from Holstein cows. In vitro cultures were maintained on 30 g day−1 of the dietary dry matter (DM) fed to donor cows and were supplemented with FF or IM at 0.14, or SHW at 0.14 (SHW1), 0.28 (SHW2), or 0.56 (SHW3) g DM day−1. There was little change in pH, total volatile fatty acids, or the acetate/propionate ratio due to seaweeds. The SHW mix and component seaweeds reduced the post-fermentation level of NH3-N suggesting decreased deamination of dietary and microbial amino acids. Methane emission was reduced on average 12 % with seaweeds and maximally by 16 % with SHW2. Reduction in methane production was not induced by impaired organic matter (OM) digestibility which averaged 46 %. North Atlantic SHW has potential based on in vitro screening at these doses to be fed to ruminants with beneficial effects on methane production at little cost to dietary digestibility.

Atlantic-Gro Organic Sea Plant Products

North Atlantic Organics Ltd (NAO) is a producer and distributor of organic sea plant (seaweed) products that serve as mineral supplements to animals and plants. We are an environmentally responsible company committed to a reduced carbon footprint.

Through using traditional methods of hand and horse raking seaweeds from the shores of PEI, as well as solar drying, fossil fuels are not burned and the quality of our product is preserved.

Atlantic-Gro® products are made from 100% wild harvested Kelp and Rockweed and do not contain artificial additives, preservatives, fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, antibodies or genetically modified organisms (GMO).

Our products are suitable for animals such as: cattle, horses, hogs, hens and sheep. We are in the process of developing natural plant enhancement supplements that can be used as fertilizer for crops such as potatoes, cranberries, strawberries, soybeans and more.  


Animal Nutritional Studies --  several animal nutritional studies which go into more detail about the effects and benefits of sea plants on animals.

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