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US highlights researchers working to reduce methane emissions

25 April 2022
USDA ARS
USDA

Researchers are evaluating different seaweed species

In celebration of Earth Day, the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) highlighted ongoing research that explores how a seaweed species could potentially reduce methane emissions in livestock production.

According to NASA, it is a misconception that farm flatulence leads to excess atmospheric methane. In fact, the natural, digestive regurgitation and belches from livestock ruminants contribute most to environmental methane emissions. Ruminants are grazing animals with digestive systems that ferment the cellulose in grasses and other vegetation they eat. Methane gas is released as a fermentation byproduct.

The US Environmental Protection Agency says methane accounts for about 10% of US greenhouse gas emissions — and enteric (intestinal) fermentation accounts for approximately 2.7% of that. To help this issue, scientists are turning to a seaweed compound called bromoform, which could reduce enteric methane emissions by as much as 82% when fed to ruminants as a small portion of their diet.

Studies are underway to determine the seaweed species with the greatest potential to reduce methane. Researchers at the USDA-ARS US Dairy Forage Research Center plan to include seaweed as part of dairy cattle’s diet to evaluate both lactation performance and enteric methane emissions. Expanding this nutritional supplement nationwide, and perhaps globally, could markedly reduce methane emissions.

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