War on emissions: Seaweed diet could lessen the stink of cow burps

Long Lunch 11/10/2018
Photo: Getty.

Scientists say a special diet for cows could help to thwart damaging greenhouse gases they burp into the atmosphere every day.

Their answer to lessen the stink of cow flatulence: seaweed.

Researchers from UC Davis University in California are claiming seaweed has the potential to dramatically reduce the amount of methane cows burp into the atmosphere.

“We only need half a percent to one percent [of seaweed] and that will help them reduce methane emissions,” says Dr Ermias Kebreab, professor of animal science at UC Davis.

Methane is produced from a fermentation process through what animals eat.

“The seaweed has an active ingredient that will disrupt this chemical reaction that converts carbon dioxide into methane,” Dr Kebreab told RadioLIVE.

In some studies researchers found up to a 60 percent reduction in methane levels.

But it’s yet to be proven if cows actually enjoy it, and if the milk they produce is safe for human consumption.

“As long as we keep [the seaweed] at low levels they are quite happy with it.”

Dr Kebreab says the seaweed used in the study is a red variety, found in large ocean forests off the coast of Australia.

Seaweed is one of the most sustainable ecosystems on earth, and that's because it grows so fast - in fact, if grass grew as fast as seaweed does, you'd have to mow it seven times a day.

Listen to the full interview with Dr Ermias Kebreab above.

The Long Lunch with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.