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Friday 14 December 2018

Seaweed feed not a 'silver bullet' for beef emissions

Seaweed can be used as garden feed
Seaweed can be used as garden feed
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Seaweed-based feed is no silver bullet for methane reduction in cattle and further research is needed on its viability in Ireland given our island location and emission target challenges, a Teagasc scientist has said.

In 2017, scientists at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia found the addition of 2pc dried seaweed to a cow's diet could reduce their methane emissions by as much as 99pc.

Speaking at the recent Teagasc Seaclimate workshop in Dublin, Dr Maria Hayes said that while studies abroad on giving seaweed-based feed to animals were shown to reduce methane gas emissions from cows and cattle, food safety concerns must be looked at before introducing such feed on a mainstream level in Ireland.

"Teagasc researchers are looking into the possible impact of seaweed-based animal feed reducing emissions, and since we are an island, it is worth looking into.

"However, factors such as is it safe for animals to consume and would food products made from animals who have consumed seaweed feed be safe need to be considered," said Dr Hayes.

"One of our speakers, Rob Kinley from Australia, fed seaweed to cattle and reduced methane by 70pc, but the seaweed he used is not native to Irish shores.

"It is worth looking into in terms of the whole climate change debate but I don't think seaweed would provide a silver bullet.

"While there are studies that show its benefits, there are an equal amount of studies which claim it may be of no benefit at all, so this really has to be assessed."

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