Asparagopsis red seaweed feed shows potential from promising trial results

Feedlot trails previously over 100 days and a recent 300 day trail has shown Asparagopsis to be safe for long-fed cattle like Wagyu to consume over those extended periods

Seaweed fed Wagyu across 300 days maintained the quality levels required for a premium product sold into global markets while also lowering the methane content

A world first trial into the use of the red seaweed Asparagopsis as feed for Wagyu has delivered promising results and further demonstrated the potential of feed additives to help cattle producers reduce enteric methane emissions.

The feedlot trial, conducted over 300 days, resulted in 28% enteric methane abatement, with no impact on safety, taste and product integrity, or marble score.

Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) Managing Director and CEO, David Harris, said the trial broke new ground as the longest of its kind and demonstrated AACo’s commitment to sustainability.

“This trial was an important step forward and we’re encouraged by the results,” David Harris added.

“Based on previous trials that were primarily with cattle fed for 100 days, we anticipated a higher methane abatement, however reducing emissions by almost 30% is still significant.

“Considering the nature of the trial we will look at the positives and take away the learning opportunities. It helped us understand more about how to apply Asparagopsis and what we can consider to improve outcomes in the future.

“There is no silver bullet to eliminating enteric methane emissions, but we’ll keep trying and we’ll discover how to make it work in our environment. The important thing is that we are determined to get there.”

David Harris also outlined other important outcomes such as the taste and marbling results and the sustained use of Asparagopsis oil without the rumen adapting that made the trial a success. 

“No one had tested those things in Wagyu previously, but they are important findings especially as a beef company selling a premium product into global markets,” David Harris continued.

“Importantly, we also learned that it’s safe for long-fed cattle like Wagyu to consume over those extended periods.

In addition to the lower methane abatement, the trial raised several questions including a reduction in liveweight of 9.38% as well as the type and size of ration required to get outcomes in Wagyu cattle.

“This trial demonstrates there’s still a lot we don’t know, but that’s not a bad thing. Without testing the science, we won’t know how to solve the methane challenge.

“There is significant potential with methane abatement technology. While it’s not perfect yet, with more funding for research and better collaboration with government we can get there.

“We want to be part of the climate change solution. The question is, how do we make this work for everybody. This trial was another important piece in that puzzle.”

Asparagopsis in its natural habitat would have been unlikely to ever make it into prime beef cattle diets but that outcome is now very close to becoming a reality

Mr Harris said AACo will now advance other trial work in methane abatement, including potential opportunities with Asparagopsis.

“We will need diversity in solutions to tackle this issue across our supply chain and we still view Asparagopsis as a part of that mix,” David Harris added.

“Feedlots are a small component of our emissions profile. The greater challenge will be tackling methane in extensive grazing environments such as our stations, which can be more than a million square kilometres in size.

“So, we will look at multiple pathways and a range of interventions. Feed additives generally are only one part of the solution. There will be other approaches and technologies that emerge to complement them.

“We look forward to making further announcements about this work in the near future,” David Harris concluded.

See the results of turning seaweed into prime beef steaks from a 100 day trial conducted in 2021 on this link.

The current trial was conducted in collaboration with Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), Sea Forest, University of New England (UNE) and the University of Queensland (UQ).