Methane reducing cattle feed a step closer

The Government has announced support for a project that could substantially reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from cattle.

The announcement was made as part of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's and Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor's visit to Nelson's Cawthron Aquaculture Park on Friday.

The Cawthron Institute will receive $100,000 from the Government's Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund to turn a native red seaweed (Asparagopsis armata) in to a greenhouse gas-busting cattle feed supplement for domestic and global markets.

Asparagopsis armata is a native red seaweed, which grows abundantly throughout New Zealand waters.

The native red seaweed is found throughout New Zealand waters.
The native red seaweed is found throughout New Zealand waters. Photo credit: Supplied

Research in Australia has shown that the seaweed, once harvested and dried can be used as supplementary feed for dairy cows, cattle, sheep and goats.

Damien O'Connor said, if successful, the project could be a game-changer for farmers here and around the world.

"In previous trials Asparagopsis had proven to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in livestock by up to 80 percent," he said. 

Other products typically provide reductions of between 10 and 20 percent.

"Australian research estimates that if just 10 percent of global ruminant producers adopted Asparagopsis as an additive to feed their livestock, it would have the same impact for our climate as removing 50 million cars from the world's roads."

He said the Cawthron project could also lay the foundations for a new high-value industry, along with the jobs that go with it.

There was also export potential and on-farm economic benefits, including price premiums for milk and meat.

"We want to be the most productive, sustainable country in the world. Projects like this will contribute to New Zealand's reputation in sustainable and innovative aquaculture and agriculture."

The project will undertake research into the effect of Asparagopsis on greenhouse gas emissions and develop an early proof of concept of the production systems needed to develop the feed supplement at pilot-scale.

SFF Futures, through the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), is contributing $100,000 over the one-year life of the project, and Cawthron is contributing $150,000. 

Cawthron is also collaborating with researchers in Australia and the University of Waikato.