The study, by a team of researchers at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, found in live trials with sheep that recorded methane levels fell between 50 – 70 per cent when they ate a diet including 2 per cent seaweed.
The Australian study was originally based on the experience of a Canadian farmer who realised that his cattle that ate washed up seaweed were healthier and produced “rip roaring heats” with longer mating cycles than those that did not.
Canadian researchers Rob Kinley and Alan Fredeen subsequently proved the findings in 2014, and also suggested the cattle produced significantly less methane.
The research team tested how 20 species of seaweed reacted with bacteria found in cows’ stomachs. They found that one species of red algae called Asparagopsis Taxiformis was particularly effective in reducing cows’ methane emissions and if it made up just 2 per cent of the animal’s diet, it could reduce emissions by 99 per cent.
A single cow releases between 70 and 120 kg of methane a year. The negative effect on the climate of Methane is 23 times higher than the effect of CO2. Therefore the release of about 100 kg Methane per year for each cow is equivalent to about 2’300 kg CO2 per year.
The value of 2’300 kg CO2 is the same amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) is generated by burning 1’000 liters of petrol. With a car using 8 liters of petrol per 100 km, you could drive 12’500 km per year (7’800 miles per year).
World-wide, there are about 1.5 billion cows and bulls. All ruminants (animals which regurgitates food and re-chews it) on the world emit about two billion metric tons of CO2-equivalents per year. In addition, clearing of tropical forests and rain forests to get more grazing land and farm land is responsible for an extra 2.8 billion metric tons of CO2 emission per year.
With increased prosperity, people are consuming more meat and dairy products every year. Global meat production is projected to more than double from 229 million tonnes in 1999/2001 to 465 million tonnes in 2050, while milk output is set to climb from 580 to 1043 million tonnes.