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The use of seaweed from the Galician coast as a mineral supplement in organic dairy cattle

  • F. Rey-Crespo (a1) (a2), M. López-Alonso (a2) and M. Miranda (a3)


This study was designed to assess the value of seaweeds from the Galician coast as a source of minerals (especially iodine (I) but also other micro-minerals) in organic dairy cattle. It was conducted in an organic dairy farm in the Lugo province that typically represents the organic milk production in NW Spain. The animal’s diet consisted mainly of local forage (at pasture or as hay and silage in the winter) and 5 kg of purchased concentrate/day per animal (representing 23.5% of feed intake). Based on the mineral composition of the diet, the physiological requirements and the EU maximum authorised levels in feed, a supplement composed by Sea Lettuce (Ulva rigida) (as flakes, 80%), Japanese Wireweed (Sargasum muticum) (flakes, 17.5%) and Furbelows (Saccorhiza polyschides) (powder, 2.5%) was formulated to give 100 g/animal per day. Sixteen Holstein Friesian lactating cows were randomly selected and assigned to the control (n=8) and algae-supplemented groups (n=8). Both groups had exactly the same feeding and management with the exception of the algae supplement, which was mixed with the concentrate feed and given to the animals at their morning milking for 10 weeks. Heparinised blood (for plasma analysis) and milk samples were collected at 2-week intervals and analysed for toxic and trace element concentrations by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry or inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometry. The algae supplement significantly improved the animals’ mineral status, particularly I and selenium that were low on the farm. However, the effect of the algae supplement on the molybdenum status in cattle needs further investigation because of its great relevance on copper metabolism in ruminants. The I supply deserves special attention, since this element is at a very high concentration in brown-algae species and it is excreted in the milk proportionally to its concentration in plasma concentrations (mean±s.e. in the algae-supplemented and control groups were 268±54 and 180±42 µg/l, respectively).


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