Edgar Smith (left), owner and operator of Beaver Meadow Farms and Dr. Spencer Serin (right) at Beaver Meadow Farms in Comox. Image provided

Seaweed as cow food?

NIC researching benefits of seaweed in cattle diet at Beaver Meadows Farm in Comox

North Island College (NIC)’s Centre for Applied Research, Technology and Innovation (CARTI) is embarking on a new research project, investigating how seaweed can help improve the health and sustainability of cattle farming.

NIC received $25,000 from an Natural Sciences and Engineering Research (NSERC) Engage grant for the project, which will be led by NIC faculty member Dr. Spencer Serin.

“We’ve seen anecdotal evidence that adding specific varieties of seaweed to cattle diets has resulted in increased weight gains and reduced greenhouse gas emissions,” said Serin. “Through this research, we’re hoping to identify the impact of these additives on the final beef product and whether it would be of benefit to the cattle industry.”

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The research is being done in partnership with Beaver Meadow Farms in Comox.

“Our farm has long been interested in strategies to increase the sustainability and decrease the environmental impact of cattle ranching,” said Edgar Smith, owner and operator of Beaver Meadow Farms. “This partnership with NIC will help us better study the techniques we’ve been developing on our farm. It’s wonderful to be able to access this kind of research support locally.”

The variety of seaweed being used is Mazzaella japonica macroalgae – an invasive red seaweed that often washes up on shore during storms.

“This research is exciting because of the wide range of potential benefits,” said Naomi Tabata, manager of CARTI. “We’re looking at increasing the health of the cattle, increasing the healthfulness of the final product, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing sustainability and looking at the potential for a new industry of harvesting and processing of this invasive species.”

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The project will run from July to December this year and will include use of NIC lab space for testing. Student researchers will have the opportunity to assist with testing and data collection.

“These type of projects provide unique opportunities for our students to do a high level of research in their first and second year of post-secondary,” said Serin. “It’s one of the benefits of NIC as a small institution and being able to develop application-based research with CARTI’s support.”

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