What’s Next for Farms? New Ways to Keep Cows Fed and Fields Fertile  


Farming has changed a lot over the past hundred years. As populations grew, demand for affordable dairy, meat and crops surged. Mass production led to consolidated giant farms and cost-cutting methods. Many practices boosted output but had downsides for animal welfare, environment, and nutrition.

Now, with awareness growing around sustainability and health, both farmers and consumers want better. New science and technology allow progress without sacrificing quality or ethics. Smart farming can sustainably max yields while protecting animals, land, and climate for the long haul.

Optimizing Cow-Cattle Feed for Less Waste

According to the experts at Energy Feeds International, one big challenge is optimizing cow-cattle feed. Feeding cows uses lots of land, water, and energy across the chain. Yet most feed provides poor nutrition and cows waste up to 50% of what they don’t digest. Fortunately, innovations on two fronts, microbiome science and seaweed supplements, can dramatically cut waste while making cows healthier.

Microbiome Hacking for Better Digestion

Microbiomes are the bacteria in stomachs that extract nutrients from food. Just like people have gut bacteria, cow digestion depends on stomach microbes. Each compartment has different microbiomes to handle different feeds. When balanced, it equals healthy cows and less methane waste. 

But standard high-grain, low-forage diets mess up cow digestion. It throws their microbiomes off, leading to less absorption of nutrients. That leads to poor health, antibiotics overuse, and wasted undigested grains appearing in manure.

New probiotic supplements put back missing microbes from grass-fed ancestors. Early trials show cows digesting more feed fully, meaning less waste in manure lagoons. Their microbiomes balance out naturally for better health too.

Seaweed Supplements to Cut Methane

Another issue from big cattle farms is methane emissions from cow burps and gas. Methane is thirty times more potent than CO2 for global warming. Just a little seaweed additive in feed could drastically cut methane output, though. Cows burp a lot when digesting food, due to excess hydrogen production. But compounds in seaweed bind to hydrogen, blocking it from turning into methane. 

Spreading benefits beyond the farm gate, less gassy cows also mean more energy absorbed as nutrition instead of lost to the air. So meat and dairy quality can improve too. Pretty amazing that a sprinkling of seaweed over feed makes cattle more sustainable.

Regenerative Techniques Replenish Soil

Another key for sustainable farming is healthy soil to grow animal feed and human food crops. But decades of intensive industrial farming have depleted soils everywhere. Loss of fertility now threatens crop nutrition levels too.

Chemical fertilizers supply some key plant nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium but run off as pollution. They also destroy soil microbiomes and long-term fertility. Thankfully, farmers are returning to nature-inspired practices to restore living soils.

No-Till Protects Crucial Microbes

One popular new technique is no-till farming. Instead of plowing fields every season, crops get planted into last year’s stalks and stubble. Protecting the soil surface preserves delicate fungal networks and microbiomes that hold on to nutrients.

Cover Crops Replenish Nutrients

Growing cover crops is another way farms restore fertility between cash crops. Certain mixes of grains and legumes add biomass to feed microbes and stabilize nitrogen and carbon in soil. Cover crop root systems also reduce erosion while their decaying vegetation builds water-holding soil structure to protect topsoil. Modern equipment allows sowing and killing cover crops with no extra field passes these days, too.


Now more than ever, consumers and corporations want their food to be grown sustainably. New science, smart supplements and natural methods allow progress without sacrificing our planet or livestock health. Optimizing cow digestion, soil microbiomes and circular resource flows gives hope that agriculture can balance optimal production with ethics and ecology for better farming ahead.