Five-month study finds sustained reductions with no change in animal health and beef quality
Blue Ocean Barns announced today that a recent study (biorxiv.org) out of the University of California, Davis, found that a supplement derived from red seaweed lowered farmers’ feed requirements by 14% with no diminishing of steers’ weight gain. The study also confirmed past research with dairy cows that the seaweed supplement cut methane production from digestion by more than 80%.
The U.C. Davis study demonstrated that the methane reductions were sustained during the entire 147-day trial, which was longer and included more cattle than any prior study of the seaweed’s impact. Studies of other methane-reducing technologies have shown that cattle digestive systems typically adapt, making those additives less effective over time.
In addition, the new study showed that the health and safety of the cattle were not compromised. Moreover, in a taste test conducted as part of the U.C. Davis study, participants reported consistent flavor and tenderness compared with traditional beef. Similarly, following an earlier dairy trial, testers at Organic Valley’s headquarters in Wisconsin found that the seaweed did not impact the flavor or fragrance of the milk.
Blue Ocean Barns has developed a proprietary, natural feed supplement from the red seaweed that will allow farmers to easily integrate it into cattle diets. The product, which makes up less than 0.3% of the cattle’s feed, prevents hydrogen from binding to carbon atoms during digestion and creating methane in cattle burps. Methane gas contributes to nearly half of all global warming from human activities in the short term – and cattle and other grazing animals represent 40% of that annually.
Scientists at U.C. Davis noted in the steers study that red seaweed achieves the most dramatic reductions in cattle methane output among all available technology and supplements. “We have evaluated several additives for methane reductions over the past decade, and the seaweed demonstrated significant savings we haven’t seen before,” said lead researcher Dr. Ermias Kebreab, director of the World Food Center at U.C. Davis and Sesnon Endowed Professor in the Department of Animal Science. “The opportunity to equip meat and dairy producers with a way to offer climate-positive products while also reducing their highest cost, feed, is a win for farmers, consumers, the animals, and the environment.”
A white paper released this month by the CLEAR Center at U.C. Davis, which is directed by Dr. Frank Mitloehner, stated that “reducing methane emissions and achieving climate neutrality is no small undertaking.” However, cutting the output of methane from farms “would have profound climate effects.”
Albert Straus, founder of Straus Family Creamery and a pioneering organic dairy farmer, has received a USDA National Organic Program waiver to use the Blue Ocean Barns supplement in a six-week experiment on his farm in Marin County, Calif.
Larger-scale farmers are also eager to reduce their climate impact. “It is exciting to see that Blue Ocean Barns’ hard work and persistence is beginning to yield fruit,” said C.A. Russell, owner of Yosemite Jersey Dairy in Hilmar, Calif. “It could improve the lives of all of us.”
“Coming from a farming family, I know firsthand how important it is to run an efficient business and exercise stewardship over resources,” said Joan Salwen, co-founder and CEO of Blue Ocean Barns. “We are thrilled to support farmers with a product that is good for both their bottom lines and for the planet, hopefully playing a role to ensure the success of future generations of farm families.”
Blue Ocean Barns provides unrestricted funding to the U.C. Davis Animal Nutrition & Environment Modeling Applications Laboratory (ANEMAL) and provided input in the conception and design of the work. The company did not influence the results or interpretation of the study.
About Blue Ocean Barns
Blue Ocean Barns is a Delaware Public Benefit Corporation with a mission to support producers of meat and dairy in improving farmers’ business outcomes while significantly reducing the climate impact of cattle. The company, based in Redwood City, Calif., is the global technology leader in the production of red seaweed, the most effective feed supplement solution to the climate impact of cattle. Backed by investment from Valor Siren Ventures and financial support from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, Blue Ocean Barns is scheduled to make its product commercially available by the end of 2021. Find out more at http://www.blueoceanbarns.com.
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