India is a country that has a huge potential to diminish its carbon footprint, which causes global warming’ says a US scientist after conducting several research on dairy cows. Professor in Animal Science department at the University of California-Davis, Ermias Kebreab has recently proved that feeding cows with ‘seaweed’ as a nutritional supplement reduced their emissions of methane gas to a great extend.
One must know that, methane in the air is a greenhouse gas (GHG), which is 28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide (CO2). As per Ministry of Environment and Forests in India, about one eighth of all GHG emissions from the country - 1,728 million tons of CO2 equivalent, came from the cattle population in 2007.
India’s cattle population i.e. 305 million is the largest in the world followed by Brazil which has 233 million livestock, says US agriculture department. Cows are ruminant animals that release gas while digesting food in their rumen (part of in the stomach). Moreover rumen is home to thousands and thousands of microbes that help ferment and break down high-fiber food such as grass producing gases that further forms methane which the cows continuously burp and emit.
Kebreab and his team tested the efficiency of a type of marine macro-algae known as "Asparagopsis" on 12 Holstein cows. They mixed the dried seaweed with molasses to make a thick meal that the cows usually like. Then an open-air gadget calculated the methane in the cows' exhaled breath. Their 3-month research found that spiking the cows' daily diet with Asparagopsis, decreased their methane production by up to 58%.
Researchers all over the world are also working on the cattle methane problem. There are reports about Irish farmers planning to create ‘seaweed-eating super cows’ to fight against climate change. According to Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) website, "several compounds of herbal origin to reduce methane production in animals have been identified", but when asked about the details, IVRI research director, B.P. Mishra did not say anything.