Researchers suggest the diet change would reduce cattle's methane emissions by 99 percent. 

By Elisabeth Sherman
Updated July 19, 2017
Happy Cows, More Nutritious Milk
Credit: © Simon Willms / Getty Images

It’s no secret that herds of belching and, yes, farting and cows, sent out to pasture before becoming our burgers, are contributing to the decline of the ozone layer and speeding up climate change.

Last year, a group of researchers in Australia tried to find ways to save the planet from the cow flatulence menace, and found that feeding them seaweed along with their diet of primarily grass can reduce their methane emissions by 99 percent. Now, the Irish Farmers’ Association wants to put the study to the test.

Thomas Cooney, the association’s environmental chairman, urged scientists in the country to “to immediately investigate the potential for this research in an Irish agriculture context," according to a report from the Independent.

Ireland hopes to implement the methods used in the study not just because of the potential positive effects on the environment, but because it may also bolster their seaweed industry.

“We are an island nation with plenty of coastline and if we can develop and improve our seaweed industry it could be a big bonus for our economy,” Michael Fitzmaurice, a member of the Irish parliament explained.

The original study was based off the experiences of a Canadian cattle farmer, who said that when his cows snacked on “washed-up seaweed,” they developed “rip-roaring hearts,” and were able to mate longer than the compatriots who sadly passed on the seaweed. Two Canadian researchers did their own study in 2014, which also showed that cows that ate seaweed produced less methane. The pair them teamed up with Australian researchers to produce the study that later came out in 2016, and that further detailed the solution Irish farmers are so eager to try out on their own cows.

The researchers tested how 20 species of seaweed reacted to the bacteria in cows’ stomachs. A species of red algae called Asparagopsis Taxiformis was the most effective at reducing the cows’ methane emissions. Even if the farmers added seaweed to just 2 percent of the cows’ diet, their methane emissions would go down by 99 percent.

Who knew one of the solutions to climate change would be as simple as a seaweed salad?