Scientists in West Cork are reporting significant results in use of a type of red seaweed to reduce methane emissions in cattle.
Cuts of between 40 and 98 per cent in emissions have already been achieved in trials in the US, Australia and New Zealand, Bantry Marine Research Station has told The Farmers’ Journal and The Irish Independent.
The West Cork research station, which is now owned by veterinary pharmaceuticals company Bimeda, has been testing effectiveness of red seaweed species Asparagopsis armata in animal feed here.
Canadian scientist Dr Rob Kinley, who pioneered research on its use with the Australian Common Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), has been collaborating with the Bantry station, managed by David O’Neill.
Asparagopsis armata which was discovered in Irish waters about 60 years ago and cultivated in the late 1990s in Ard Bay, Co Galway by research company Taighde Mara Teo, would have to be farmed here to meet sufficient quantities, O’Neill points out.
He estimates animals fed with the constituent here could reduce emissions by 50 to 60 per cent.
The marine research company is co-operating with Udaras na Gaeltachta and Teagasc, and hopes to raise funds for more animal trials.
Údaras na Gaeltachta director of enterprise, employment and property Dr Mark White said there could be a double benefit for both farmers and climate change targets if the Bantry station’s work on the red seaweed additive does prove fruitful.
Teagasc principal research officer Prof Sinead Waters, who is also adjunct professor at the Ryan Institute, NUI Galway, said that while initial results from Australia and elsewhere are positive, “further research is warranted”.
Prof Waters and Teagasc colleague Dr Maria Hayes, are involved in two projects testing various feed additives to reduce methane - “Meth-Abate” funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, and “SeaSolutions” an EU- funded project with other Irish, EU and Canadian partners.
“There are a lot of caveats, such as bromoform, a compound within seaweed which is a known to reduce methane emissions but is also a known carcinogen. We need to ensure that if seaweed is fed to ruminants that no bromoform or other residues appear in the end meat and milk products,” Prof Waters said.