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I think that all this is very cool. I think that it is also very important not to get hung up about a single aspect of biochar's role in animal feed. I have no idea what kelp or whatever contribute to animal health, to the value of their manure as fertilizer, the stink of their manure and so the fly/disease vector problem or to the issue of the ammonia reek of chicken barns that drives chickens crazy and can be alleviated by adding char to the floor litter.
I love the idea of adding kelp to animal feed. i am nervous about sounding the alarm that at "only" 17% methane reduction, biochar may be out of the animal feed additive business.
Besides, even if you can grow it in Nebraska, I suspect that I will be a long time before it is readily available to poor farmers in Malawi.
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Dr. D. Michael Shafer
Founder and Director, Warm Heart
Thanks for your post. Here are a few quotes from the WaPo article that indicate that seaweed could be a strong competitor for biochar as a livestock feed additive to reduce methane emissions, while increasing the yield of meat or milk production. 100% methane removal beats 17% methane removal.
Several companies are in various stages of producing asparagopsis, which can be grown in tanks, even in places like Nebraska. One company has already attracted venture capital. I am aware of Heather Norbert’s excellent work. I just think that we need to take seaweed seriously and see if there is a way that biochar could complement seaweed’s effectiveness. IMHO, the way to do that would be to conduct research trials on combining biochar with seaweed.
Here are a few key excerpts from the WaPo article:
"In a study published in 2016, Kinley and his co-authors found that asparagopsis virtually eliminated methane emissions in lab trials.
Asparagopsis and other types of seaweed have specialized gland cells that make and store bromoform, an organic compound. When the blurry red seaweed is freeze-dried, powdered and sprinkled as a garnish on a cow’s meal, bromoform blocks carbon and hydrogen atoms from forming methane in the stomach.
In response, the cow makes more propionate, a fatty acid that helps produce glucose in the metabolic process, allowing the animal to more efficiently grow or to produce more milk. That may enable farmers to use less feed and save money.
A number of companies have been working to make asparagopsis taxiformis and asparagopsis armata into commercial products that can be added to animal feed.
These companies are in various stages of production, with some using tanks on land to tinker with their seaweed strain before moving to grow in the ocean; others plan to always grow on land in tanks filled with ocean wate
r and still more growing indoors. All are on the path toward commercialization, with one, Sea Forest, doing commercial trials with a wool producer and a dairy cooperative."
Kim, I have to believe that harvesting seaweed and delivering it to livestock has to be very expensive? And you have to consider where the livestock is and where the seafood is, not a lot of overlapping supply envelope. Do you think biochar is more cost effective than biochar?
Do you think that biochar is effective as seaweed at reducing methane emissions and improving feed efficiency?
I have to believe the producing biochar locally, from collected waste, perhaps receiving a tipping fee, would make more economic sense?
Heather Norbert from University of Nebraska is the point person leading efforts to quantify the impact of feeding biochar to beef cows, this lady is a rock star.
It is becoming apparent that biochar reduces methane emissions from cows while increasing feed efficiency. I’ve attached some recent articles supplied by her for the groups reference.
<Nebraska Beef Report_Biochar.pdf><Translational Animal Science_Biochar.pdf>
Commercial seaweed production for livestock feed is taking off. The climate benefits and economics look promising. Could biochar producers demonstrate synergistic benefits to these new seaweed producers by adding biochar to their seaweed feed? It might be worth a research trial.
An unusual snack for cows, a powerful fix for climate
Scientists have discovered that feeding seaweed to cows significantly reduces the amount of methane they produce and burp into the atmosphere, while also helping them produce more milk and grow bigger on less feed. When grown in the ocean, seaweed helps to filter the water, making the idea of farming seaweed to feed to cows a win-win for the environment and farmers.
By Tatiana Schlossberg