Cows for Climate Change Research

Cows for Climate Change Research

Cows for Climate Change Research
Finding on-farm solutions through a $3 Cow-Seaweed Grant-Funded Project

Part of any successful business is utilizing your resources to their fullest potential. For example, when you think of dairy cows on a farm, you may assume they only serve one purpose: to produce milk. Not so at Wolfe’s Neck Center. Our organic dairy herd does produce milk to be made into Stonyfield yogurt, but they are also here to train a new generation of farmers, to graze on our land and add nutrients back into the soil, to show visitors what farming can and should look like, and to enhance our local food economy by being a source of local, organic milk.

But lately our cows have been serving another purpose. As climate change becomes more of a pressing issue than ever before, it demands our organization to take action and find solutions. Now we are using our resources—a farm and education center—to extend our focus into the future, using on-site research to get us there with clear data to pave the way. As our dairy herd continues to provide us with all of the same benefits as before, they now are part of a bigger picture endeavor to find innovative agriculture-based solutions to climate change.

Wolfe’s Neck Center has secured a key partnership in a $3 million grant with Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences to expand research on how to reduce methane emission by cattle and the effects of adding Maine seaweeds to a cow’s diet. Cattle are the largest human-caused source of methane emissions—the most potent of greenhouse gases—making dairy farms a source for reducing emissions at the start.

The project is also fundamental for the vibrancy of Maine’s future. Focus Maine, a private-sector-led initiative for more quality jobs in Maine, has identified agriculture, aquaculture, and biopharmaceuticals as three of Maine’s most globally competitive and high-growth fields. This project is unique in that it combines two of these three top opportunities for the state, agriculture and aquaculture, in a way that could benefit Maine and our society. From growing and harvesting Maine seaweeds to supporting our dairy farms with a local source for feed that could bring environmental benefits, there are key reasons as to why this project is valuable.

“We are thrilled to be part of this highly collaborative and actionable research,” says Dorn Cox, WNC research director. “It is so important to build bridges between our working landscape and waterfront, and this project can help to share knowledge that will contribute to climate adaptation and mitigation.”

In addition to Bigelow Lab and WNC, this collaborative effort is also in partnership with researchers at Colby College and University of Vermont, as well as through testing with the dairy herd at the University of New Hampshire. While lab testing is at the forefront of the project, seaweed harvesting will be underway shortly and ready to use in both herd diets by summer 2020.

Wolfe’s Neck Center is grateful to be in the unique position of being both a part of critical climate change research while also serving as a public face for visitors to connect to farming and the source of their food. Between this latest grant funding and being a founding partner of our global OpenTEAM collaborative, announced this July, we are poised to continue this trajectory into ag research. There are solutions to climate change within the agriculture sector, and by having access to farmland for experimentation and data collection, we are able to serve as a resource for advancements in this field. When we think of utilizing our resources to their fullest potential, doing for good is what it’s all about.

Click Here to see the project press


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