The nutritive value of seaweed enriched diets and effects on production performance.



Studies into the potential of seaweed products with an additional value beyond the supply of macro- and micronutrients, also referred to as functional or bioactive components. These functional components may contribute to the health and well being of the animal, increase the quality of the edible end product (meat, milk, eggs), reduce the environmental impact of animal husbandry or have other specific beneficial features.


Animal feed (ingredients and supplements) for cattle.


In the previous century, seaweed was a commonly used feed of cattle, horses, and poultry in several coastal regions of Europe (Norway, Scotland, France) and America (Chapman, 1970). Inclusion levels up to 10% for cattle, horses, and poultry were common. Cows for example are ruminants; they have multiple stomachs, and they have special bacteria that allow them to use seaweed as source of nutrients. Further work on the use of seaweed in diets for different sheep breeds was regarded necessary, whereas the use for pigs did not seem to be justified.

Nowadays, seaweed is not a standard dietary ingredient anymore. The use was mainly based on observation were cows, sheep and goats would enter the lower shore parts and feeding with seaweed. The digestibility and nutritional value of seaweed species is not well known. Only a limited number of (mainly old) publications investigated the inclusion of whole seaweed in monogastric diets and considered intact seaweed as a poorly suited feed ingredient. However, results vary between animals and seaweed species.

In traditional animal husbandry in Nordic countries seaweed has been used to supplement the vitamin and mineral supply of farm animals.

In modern intensive livestock systems, higher recommendations for requirements are used and vitamins and trace elements are largely supplied via an industrial composed standardised premix, without taking into account the contribution of the vegetable ingredients. Therefore the potential contribution of seaweed to the trace element supply of farm animals seems small, unless their content and availability is sufficiently constant to reduce the content in the premix. The contribution of seaweed to the macro mineral supply (Na, Ca, K, and P) can be taken into account in the feed optimisation program, provided that these levels are adequately known.


Beef and dairy cattle


Seaweed meal, processed in molasses blocks was provided to ruminally, duodenally, and ileally cannulated steers (initial BW 3768.1 kg) to evaluate effects of brown seaweed meal (Ascophyllum nodosum, 10 g/d) on intake, site of digestion, and microbial efficiency (Leupp et al., 2005).

Diets consisting of switchgrass hay (Panicum virgatum; 6.0% CP; DM basis) were offered ad libitum, with free access to water, and molasses block (0.341 kg of DM/d, whereas the positive control group (POS) received blocks without seaweed. Steers fed seaweed blocks (SB) had greater true ruminal OM digestibility compared with steers fed POS (61.0 vs. 57.91.6%, P = 0.10), due to improved digestibility of the fibre fractions (NDF and ADF). Treatments did not alter ruminal pH, total VFA, or individual VFA proportions. Seaweed block increased the slowly degradable CP fraction compared with POS (39.5 vs. 34.02.1%, P = 0.01). Similarly, SB increased the extent of CP degradability (74.2 vs. 68.91.81%, P = 0.01). The authors concluded that the use of brown seaweed meal seemed to have beneficial effects on forage digestibility in low-quality forage diets.

In an old study of Dunlop (1953) the hypothesis was tested whether copper-rich seaweed would have a similar enhancing effect on the milk fat production of dairy cows as copper sulphate.

Therefore, in several dairy cow herds supplementation of 200 g/d of dried Ascophyllum nodosum supply for a period of three weeks was compared with a single dose of 10 g copper sulphate. In some herds, the inclusion of seaweed meal would appear to stimulate milk fat production even to a greater extent than copper Sulphate.

Daily supplementation of 200 g of a mineral-enriched A. nodosum meal (78.74% A. nodosum meal, 20% calcium phosphate, 1.2% magnesium oxide, 0.06% copper oxide) to lactating cows resulted in 6.8% higher milk yield compared with the control treatment that received the same ratio, with 100 g/d of a standard mineral mixture substituted for the seaweed meal (Jensen et al., 1968).

Milk iodine content of the seaweed group was 0.6 mg/l compared with 0.1 mg/l in the control group. These results suggests that feeding this mineral-enriched seaweed supplement is able to increase milk yield as well as the mineral concentration of the milk.


By adding seaweed to the diet of animals not only the uptake of minerals is increased but also the quality of the produced manure. Minerals are added to the soil increasing the quality of the grass and when eaten will re-enter again after which another part will be uptake depending on the animals needs. The amount left enter the soil again as manure and will be recycled. 

Plants, trees, seaweed and algae are the link we do know of able to realize the organic substance synthesis from mineral elements. It is very important because the major minerals are instrumental in all kinds of life-sustaining activities in our body.

Commercial fertilizers are used on large scale to increase crop yields but provide only three elements to these crops being nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. So, farmers

can grow something that looks like food, but they're only putting three elements or minerals back into the soil and no more. It's a strip-mining operation with no easy solutions, and putting back three elements is not going to do it from a quality of food prospect/view. The health consequences of mineral depletion of crop soils are severe, two billion people out of the six billion inhabitants of the planet are suffering from micronutrient malnutrition and it is not without reason that the ancient people going back to Summer did advice ''that no diet is complete without adding some products of the sea or water including fish or seaweed which are rich sources with minerals. At the roots the observation or the fact that when life did move form living in the sea, lakes and rivers to occupy land the access to minerals became limited.

The long-term result of the mass demineralisation of the population is that we end up with chronic disease acceleration, and the argument that we do life longer hold no real true, other than being just a number to boost about. While transient sub-optimal nutrition may be forgiven, a constant diet lacking in these micro nutrients will adversely affect every function, structure, and detoxification functions of the human cells, our metabolism will suffer, leading to diseases.



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