PETALUMA, CALIF. — Straus Family Creamery Founder and Chief Executive Officer Albert Straus received approval from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program and California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to conduct the trial on his California organic dairy farm in cooperation with seaweed-supplement maker Blue Ocean Barns. During the study, dairy cows’ enteric methane emissions were reduced an average of 52% and as much as 90%, by supplementing their diets with a specific red seaweed (Asparagopsis taxiformis). According to the creamery, this was the largest and longest study of the red seaweed supplement for dairy cows.
“If we can get up to 90% reduction in methane emissions through feeding red seaweed to cows, this is a huge leap forward for us in creating a sustainable farming system that is beneficial to the planet and our communities,” Straus said. “Red seaweed is also the next critical step we need to reach our carbon-neutral farming model goal in 2023 on the Straus Dairy Farm. This model will demonstrate that dairy farming and animals are one of the essential climate change solutions we need while providing high-quality organic food.”
The enteric methane emissions of twenty-four cows on the Straus Dairy Farm were tested four times a day to determine the impact of adding roughly one-quarter pound of red seaweed each day to their regular 45-pound diet for a total of 50 days in August and September. During the trial period, five metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions were averted in seven weeks from these 24 cows.
“Red seaweed immediately and radically drops enteric methane emissions –and an immediate and radical solution is what the planet needs right now,” said Joan Salwen, co-founder and chief executive officer, Blue Ocean Barns. “We need to install electric vehicle charging stations throughout the country and replace coal plants with cleaner energy. But the Blue Ocean Barns seaweed solution is ready right now, it goes to work on climate change immediately, and it is economical.”
Straus Dairy Farms said enteric fermentation (cow burps) is responsible on average for 35% of total US on-farm greenhouse gas emissions from dairy cows and the production of their feed supply. Cows belch methane gas as a normal part of a healthy digestive process. But methane is a greenhouse gas 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2). A productive Holstein cow burps about the same emissions as one car’s tailpipe, roughly one ton of CO2e every three months.
California is the number one milk producer in the United States and is responsible for the most dairy farm emissions. The state must reduce dairy methane by 40% over 2013 levels by 2030 to meet its climate goals.
Before 2018, no solutions for dramatically reducing burped emissions had been proved in live cows. However, in the past three years, university research has proved that adding just a few ounces of red seaweed to cows’ diets naturally reduces enteric methane gas production. A UC Davis study published in the peer-reviewed scientific Journal of Cleaner Production, which the Straus Dairy Farm and Blue Ocean Barns study successfully replicated, showed greater than 50% methane emissions reduction in dairy cows. Additional studies have demonstrated that the seaweed does not affect cow herd health, milk production, or the taste and chemistry of the milk.
Organic Farmer Albert Straus has always actively worked to find agriculture-based climate solutions on his farm by prioritizing sustainable organic farming practices, converting cow manure to biogas via a methane digester, implementing carbon farming to improve soil health, and using on-farm electric vehicles. Together, the seaweed feed and the methane digester will reduce methane emissions by 90%, helping Albert Straus meet his goal of creating a net carbon neutral farming model on his dairy farm by 2023.
Straus Family Creamery is a Northern California, certified organic creamery offering minimally processed organic dairy products made from organic milk supplied by family farms in Marin and Sonoma Counties, including the Straus Dairy Farm. The family-owned business sustains collaborative relationships with the family farms that supply it milk, offering stable prices and predictability in what can otherwise be a volatile marketplace.
Blue Ocean Barns is a public benefit corporation committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the dairy and beef industries. Based in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, and San Diego, Blue Ocean Barns is sustainably cultivating a variety of the seaweed in nutrient-rich deep seawater. The company is currently negotiating pilot contracts with dairy and beef companies for 2022.