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Feeding seaweed to cows could cut methane in cow farts, reduce global warming: N.S. researcher

FILE PHOTO: Dairy cows are pictured at the Kooyman family dairy farm in Chilliwack, B.C., Tuesday, June, 10, 2014.
FILE PHOTO: Dairy cows are pictured at the Kooyman family dairy farm in Chilliwack, B.C., Tuesday, June, 10, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A decision by a Prince Edward Island dairy farmer to feed seaweed to his cows may result in a big innovation that will help save the planet from global warming – and better smelling cows too.

More than 10 years ago, dairy farmer Joe Dorgan discovered his cows loved the seaweed and were more productive, so he decided to go into business to produce the feed for other farmers.

READ MORE: Gassy German cows blamed for barn explosion

While testing the feed, a Nova Scotia researcher discovered that it cut the amount of methane gas produced in cows’ burps and farts by about 20 per cent.

Agricultural scientist, Rob Kinley, decided to continue his research by looking for other seaweeds that might be more effective.

Now in Australia, Kinley says he’s found seaweeds that virtually eliminate the methane.

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Agriculture is one of the big contributors to greenhouse gas globally – anywhere from 15 to 25 per cent.

Right now, there’s not enough of the particular seaweed readily available to make it commercially viable, but Kinley says he’s trying to convince some companies to get involved.

Most farmed seaweed is now used for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and fertilizers, but Kinley says growing seaweed for animal feed would become more attractive if a carbon value is attached to it.