Promoting 'efficient, low emitting' cows through nutritional manipulation of the rumen microbiome (Young Research Talents - FRIPRO)



According to UN forecasts, there will 10 billion people to feed by 2050, which is a major challenge. To securely meet this challenge, society must produce more food whilst using fewer resources and reducing its carbon footprint. Agriculture is the world's single largest provider of food, yet it is also accountable for a significant part of our anthropogenic carbon emissions, including production of methane gas by cows. Nutritional manipulation of methane production is considered a feasible strategy that, however, still is relatively unexplored and where rationalization is still far off. Notably, feeding seaweed to cows has recently emerged as a promising strategy for reducing methane production. Understanding of this effect requires a holistic insight into the maze of metabolic routes that constitutes the rumen microbiome, an elaborate community comprised of bacteria, archaea, viruses and eukaryotes. Despite the rumen microbiome being key in solving the cow-methane problem, definitive links between what the cows eat, their microbiome, their methane emissions and their productivity remain largely unknown.

SeaCow's main objectives are to characterize the microbiome-host interactions that underlie the metabolic transformation during inhibition of enteric methane production in cows using novel seaweed-based nutritional manipulation strategies. Animal feeding trials will elucidate the real effect of seaweed additives on Norwegian Red cattle, whereas a unique state-of-the-art characterization of the rumen microbiome will model metabolic routes and keystone microbial populations that drive host performance and methane emissions. Importantly, this approach entails focus on emerging less studied members of the rumen microbiota (such as eukaryotes). Ultimately, the outcome of the SeaCow project will enhance our understanding of the feed-microbiome-host axis that is crucial to optimize feeding regimes in agriculture to promote an efficient and low methane emitting livestock.

  • Cow 6556 received the first dose of the Asparagopsis taxiformis diet in March 2021.

    Cow 6556 received the first dose of the Asparagopsis taxiformis diet in March 2021.

    Katrine Sømliøy Eikanger