A group of Maine researchers wants to know: could a seaweed diet for cows combat climate change?
After three years of prep work, Nichole Price and numerous colleagues at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences will be trying to find the answer, thanks to a $3 million grant.
Researchers in Australia determined a seaweed species there that reduces the amount of methane they naturally produce while eating when added to their diets, according to Price.
Most of the potent greenhouse gas is emitted from the bovines when they burp.
“It mostly comes out the front end,” she said.
Methane is a greenhouse gas that traps heat much more than carbon dioxide.
Lots of the gas is emitted from American dairy and beef cows each year.
Bigelow’s research will focus on dairy cows eating local Maine seaweed to see if a local aquacultural product could feasibly incorporated into cows’ diets and eventually be produced and sold on a large scale.
“We are very curious about sugar kelp because of its cultivation potential,” said Price.
A number of Maine species including rockweed will be tested by the laboratory and its partners which include the University of Vermont, which will help with analysis; the University of New Hampshire, which will provide a measuring machine for the cows’ belching; and Colby College, which will look at the macroeconomics of developing a viable seaweed-based product for farmers that they can afford.
Wolfe’s Neck Center in Freeport, Maine, will provide the dairy cows for the project.
The animals will get their first batches of seaweed-blended feed in June or July 2020.