Friday, November 18, 2016

Seaweed eliminates cow farts

A Prince Edward Island dairy farmer and a research scientist have combined their experience and expertise to find a seaweed that eliminates cattle methane discharges which are held responsible for about 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Farmer Joe Dorgan of Seacow Pond began feeding his cattle seaweed about 10 years ago, aiming to cut feed costs.  He experienced a bonus when his cows improved.

That prompted him to make a mixture of Irish moss, rockweed and kelp, all of them going to waste, to put into his rations.

"And I knew it was good because years ago, our ancestors, that's what they done their business with," Dorgan says.

Rob Kinley, then an agricultural scientist at Dalhousie University and now in Australia, helped test Dorgan's seaweed mix and discovered it reduced the methane emissions by about 20 per cent.

He did further testing with 30 to 40 other seaweeds, but was surprised when Asparagopsis taxiformis eliminated methane emissions. In fact, he first thought his equipment had failed.

It's really a game changer if we can get this out into the market,” he now says from his office with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Queensland, Australia.

"We're talking numbers equivalent to hundreds of millions of cars," he says of the potential for the seaweed as cattle feed.

Kinley figures it could take three to five years to get a commercial animal feed to market. He says the biggest challenge will be growing enough seaweed.

"Agriculture stands to be one of the first to make major changes in the greenhouse gas inventory and so it's really a game changer if we can get this out into the market,” he says.