Today’s Solutions: November 30, 2021

Back in March, we shared the research findings from a University of California study on how feeding seaweed to cattle can reduce methane emissions from their burps and flatulence by up to 82 percent. Now, scientists in Scotland have found that the same effect holds true for sheep.

The recently published study involved sheep on the remote Scottish island of North Ronaldsay. Islanders on the five-km-long island always had limited space available for farming. As a result, they keep the sheep on the seashore.

During the summer months, there is enough grass to keep the sheep satisfied. But when the weather gets colder, the animals have to eat the island’s plentiful supply of seaweed to survive, which they do for months at a time.

In order to measure the effects of this unusual sheep diet, scientists at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee in easter Scotland have made the animals the subject of a two-decade-long study. They have discovered that the seaweed in their feed significantly reduced the animals’ methane emissions, which is about 30 times as effective in trapping heat as carbon dioxide.

How does seaweed reduce methane emissions?

Methane from livestock comes from enteric fermentation — a chemical reaction that occurs in the animals’ stomachs as they digest plants. According to the scientists, the seaweed diet had an effect on the digestive system of the Orkney sheep, resulting in reduced amounts of methane being produced, reports euronews.

“There are different components in the seaweed that actually interfere with the process (of) how methane is made,” explains a member of the team at The James Hutton Institute Gordon McDougall. “We need to absolutely prove: one, which seaweed is going to be the best for this, what amount of seaweed into the feed gives the best effect. And then, can you scale that up to a level where you’d actually have an effect on the overall UK farming.”

The marine plant — a rich source of minerals, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids — could also provide an alternative to soy, which is often used in the feed of farm animals. Soy animal feed typically travels thousands of miles before it ends in the stomachs of farm animals and is linked to deforestation.

Additional sources: ScienceDirectThe role of seaweed as a potential dietary supplementation for enteric methane mitigation in ruminants

Solutions News Source Print this article
More of Today's Solutions

Popcorn may be the next sustainable building material

Popcorn is more than just a tasty snack to munch on while at the movies—it may soon be widely used as a natural and eco-friendly alternative to man made home insulation. Scientists at Göttingen University ... Read More

Want to get students engaged? Consider career-based classes

Students who are engaged in the classroom are more likely to participate and retain more information, but what exactly keeps kids engaged? Researchers from Ohio State University surveyed 20,000 high school students across the US ... Read More

This 3D-printed eye is an eye-conic development for digital prosthetics

According to Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, Steve Verze, a 47-year-old engineer from Hackney, has been the fortunate recipient of the world’s first 3D printed eyeball. He first tried the eye on for size earlier ... Read More

Senegal’s only circus troupe helps homeless children get off the streets

Senegal has exactly one circus troupe: Sencirk—and it was founded by a former child beggar named Modou Touré. Before taking his place as ringmaster of his own circus, Touré, at the age of seven, was ... Read More

New breakthroughs in nutrient-sensing cells

Did you know immune cells can sense nutrients? A new study from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has identified the biological mechanism behind the phenomenon. The type of immune cells with these special abilities are ... Read More

How to stay warm this winter during outdoor social gatherings

Temperatures are dipping and snowflakes are falling, but that doesn’t mean we have to say goodbye to our outdoor social gatherings. Plus, it might not always be safe to gather indoors, and everyone will have ... Read More