NEWS RELEASE: The University of Tasmania’s analysis of M.J. Bale’s zero-emission wool trial concludes Asaparagopsis seaweed “shows the promise… to reduce the methane production of sheep and therefore decrease greenhouse gas emissions.”

“A new red seaweed, Asparagopsis taxiformis, has been discovered recently and is being viewed as a promising new method for reducing methane emissions in livestock when provided as a feed additive… The use of A. taxiformis in this study showed no negative effects on sheep production factors and therefore can be used in sheep production to reduce methane emissions without negatively impacting production. Whilst the use of A. taxiformis as a routine feed additive is cost prohibitive at present, this study shows the promise of such additive to reduce the methane production of sheep and therefore decrease greenhouse gas emissions.”

These are the conclusions of University of Tasmania honours student Ms Bree How, who with the support of the Tasmanian University of Agriculture monitored M.J. Bale’s 300-day zero-emissions wool trial, which saw a flock of 48 Merino ewes fed a mixture of barley and eco-friendly Asparagopsis taxiformis seaweed grown in Triabunna, Tasmania, by Sea Forest.

This world-first commercial farm trial held at the 114-year-old Kingston farm in Tasmania followed research developed by the Australian government’s scientific agency, the CSIRO, into the reduction of methane emissions from livestock using Asparagopsis taxiformis, a native red Australian seaweed. Methane emissions from livestock contribute approximately 10% of Australia’s total greenhouse-gas emissions.

In October 2021 Ms How released her report, titled ‘The Impact of Asparagopsis taxiformis on Production Factors in Fine Wool Merino Sheep’. Acknowledging that “there is little to no literature on A. taxiformis being fed to sheep in a grazing situation,” Ms How’s thesis is the result of more than a year’s work monitoring the zero-emission wool trial and providing data analysis.

Working with Kingston farmer, Simon Cameron, Ms How rotated the 48 Merino ewes throughout different paddocks throughout the 300 days and collected pasture samples to determine crude protein, available food volume and feed consumption. All ewes were also weighed, and condition scored when rotated. Greasy wool samples were collected during shearing and analysed to determine micron, coefficient of variation, fineness, curvature and comfort factor.

According to Simon Cameron, fleece analysis provided by the Australian Wool Testing Authority (AWTA) found that the zero-emission wool “maintained Kingston’s excellent standards for superfine wool.”