What can seaweed do for Vermont dairy cows? UVM researchers will find out

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BURLINGTON, Vt. – The University of Vermont recently received a big boost from the USDA’s Organic Agriculture Program to study an unlikely pairing – seaweed and dairy cows.

According to Associate Professor Dr. Sabrina Greenwood, it makes more sense once you delve into the science.

“We’re interested in feeding it to the cows so that we can see if it can be a part of their total diet,” Dr. Greenwood said. “Will it change things like methane and nitrogen emissions in nutrient cycling in the cow when we feed it?”

The $2.9 million award will help the research team explore the possible animal health, environmental and economic benefits of seaweed as a feed supplement.

While studies show seaweed has the potential to reduce dairy cows’ methane emissions, different species have different nutritional values that haven’t been fully explored.

Dr. Greenwood said there’s been a lot of excitement on campus about the work ahead.

“It’s kind of different and a little bit weird, and students are really drawn to it,” Dr. Greenwood said. “Animal science students don’t necessarily learn about aquaculture and seaweed that much, especially at UVM, so we’re really excited to broaden that horizon for them.”

The project will also involve reaching out to farmers, producers and other stakeholders in the dairy industry to better understand the logistics of incorporating seaweed in dairy cows’ diet.

Dr. Greenwood said about 50 students will be involved across the collaborating institutions, including UVM, Syracuse University, the University of New Hampshire and the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences at Colby College.

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