A high-protein meal made from algae and other aquatic microbes performed as well as alfalfa in a University of Minnesota dairy feeding trial, the company that developed it reports.

PetroAlgae Inc., a renewable energy company based in Melbourne, FL, uses aquatic microorganisms to produce biomass for conversion into fuel. The process also produces a high-protein co-product that the company calls micro-crop meal. In the Minnesota study, the meal was compared with 17.5%-protein alfalfa diets for nutrient intake, milk production and milk composition. Thirty-six cows were fed the two diets for six weeks.

Among the findings:

  • Micro-crop meal had higher feed efficiency values.
  • The meal had higher energy values than alfalfa.
  • The gross production of milk and milk normalized for fat and protein were similar between the two groups.
  • The micro-crop meal diet matched the alfalfa diet in days in milk, milk yield, body score and body weight.

"The results of this study show that PetroAlgae micro-crop meal is a desirable ingredient for high-producing dairy cattle and that it performed comparably to high-protein alfalfa meal," reports Noah Litherland, University of Minnesota dairy scientist. "We are encouraged to see this product perform so well against one of the more universally understood products in dairy nutrition. Furthermore, as nutritional understanding grows, there are some simple steps that can be taken to optimize the product further and increase its value. There is also an intriguing opportunity to alter the lipid composition of the meat and milk for added human health benefit."

"Confirming our product value against such a large and well-understood feed market is a key step in accelerating our commercialization and opens the door for bringing PetroAlgae micro-crop meal to other species and feed applications," says Anthony Tiarks, CEO of PetroAlgae. “We believe the need for imports and destination market risks in the supply chain can be greatly reduced by utilizing our technology. It can also provide a longer-term supply solution to the decline of forage acres around the world, as competing crops like corn, soybeans and cotton displaces forage."