Seaweeds in ruminant nutrition

Alvaro Garcia

It is estimated that by 2050 the planet will reach more than 9 billion people, 34 percent more than nowadays. At the same time, a higher standard of living attained by larger segments of the population, has increased the demand for animal products. To be able to feed this population, food production must increase by 70 percent not only from traditional sources but also by exploring new alternatives.

This will imply an increase on the total biomass fed to animals precisely at a time when climate variability and water shortages challenge its production in several parts of the world. One alternative that is currently being evaluated is the use of marine algae or seaweeds as a source of feed for both livestock and humans.

Its main advantage is the fact of being produced in a self-sustaining environment, without increasing the use of land base, and that does not require incorporation of resources (including freshwater!).

Groups of seaweeds

There are basically three groups of seaweeds: Phaeophyta (brown), Rhodophyta (red) or Chlorophyta (green). They have variable composition both between species, and within a species depending on the stages at which it is harvested as well as the growing conditions. There are very limited studies that report the nutritive value of seaweeds as a feedstuff for cattle.

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