Research and educational approaches to guide dairy farmer decisions about kelp meal supplementation in the Northeast

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2015: $14,666.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Grant Recipient: University of New Hampshire
Region: Northeast
State: New Hampshire
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Andre Brito
University of New Hampshire
Faculty Advisor:
Simone Frotas
University of New Hampshire

Annual Reports


  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health

    Proposal abstract:

    The goal of this project is to integrate research (Objective 1) and education approaches (i.e., the Kelp Meal Feeding Guide; Objective 2) to provide sorely needed scientific-based information about the effects of feeding kelp meal on ruminal metabolism and animal health in lactating dairy cows. Kelp meal is a very popular supplement among northeastern organic dairy farmers because kelp’s high minerals concentration, particularly iodine, and nutrient density have been associated with improvements in performance, feed efficiency, and health of dairy cows. However, scientific information regarding the impact of kelp meal supplementation on animal, environmental, and economic responses is lacking. Also lacking is an integrated, scientific-based approach to guide farmer’s decisions about feeding practices, potential animal health benefits, economics, and public health concerns relative to kelp meal supplementation in the Northeast. Our team will fill these gaps in knowledge by conducting a study with ruminally-cannulated dairy cows to measure the impact of incremental amounts of kelp meal (0 oz, 2 oz, 4 oz, and 6 oz) on rumen microbial populations (i.e., bacteria, protozoa, and archaea or methanogens) and animal health through assessment of hormonal and immune responses, and by developing the Kelp Meal Feeding Guide, which will be informed by current and previous research. Project products (e.g., the Kelp Meal Feeding Guide, peer-reviewed and farmer-oriented publications, thesis, workshops, webinars, field days, etc.) will be delivered during and beyond the Northeast SARE funding period through complementary ongoing projects as well as future research and collaborative efforts. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    We determined via surveys that more than half of organic dairy farmers in the Northeast feed kelp meal to lactating dairy cows (Antaya and Brito, unpublished). Northeastern farmers cited feed costs as the chief challenging aspect for sustaining organic dairying in the region (Pereira et al., 2013). Kelp meal is an expensive feed supplement indicating that research is needed to inform dairy farmers, nutritionists, and consultants about the cost-effectiveness of this popular supplement. Our previous studies showed that kelp meal did not improve milk production during the grazing and winter seasons (Antaya et al., 2013, 2015), but it likely affected the rumen microbial population as indicated by quadratic responses in nutrient digestibility (Antaya et al., 2015). Incremental amounts of kelp meal linearly reduced the plasma concentration of the stress hormone cortisol (Antaya et al., 2015; see Appendix I), but the mechanisms involved in this response is not well understood. We hypothesize that macro- and microminerals, vitamins, and phlorotannins present in kelp meal may stimulate or inhibit rumen microbial growth, ultimately resulting in more cellulolytic and less proteolytic and methanogenic microorganisms. We also hypothesize that antioxidant properties of kelp meal could boost the immunological response of dairy cows resulting in healthier, less stressed animals. Specific objectives include:




    Identify and quantify ruminal microorganisms (e.g., bacteria, protozoa, and methanogens) in response to incremental amounts of kelp meal fed to lactating dairy cows.



    Develop a Kelp Meal Feeding Guide to help dairy farmers and supporting industry to make educated decisions about the use of kelp meal in the Northeast region.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.