By Kevin Baird
CMI staff writer
Sen. Tom Udall was impressed with the “ground-breaking research” of converting algae into livestock feed at Eastern New Mexico University after touring the university’s agriculture building Tuesday.
Udall, D-N.M., was instrumental with getting ENMU involved in the project, which is researching whether there is feed value and marketing potential for algae as a livestock feed.
ENMU and two other universities were awarded a $1.2 million algae research grant.
A member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, Udall said he wanted to visit the research site to see if the money was being used well. He said it is.
“I think they’ve learned a lot that will be beneficial to animal nutrition and human nutrition, too,” Udall said. “I think it’s terrific. I think we need to look at the ways it can be used.”
ENMU professor Darron Smith is a director of the research.
“We know more about feeding algae to cattle than anybody in the world,” Smith said.
“It’s actually a phenomenal feed. It has so much protein,” Smith said. He added the algae feed is about 75 percent protein, provides “great energy,” and it is nearly 100 percent digestible for cattle.
Smith and his research assistants at ENMU were the first to turn algae into feed pellets.
“It’s making gorgeous pellets,” Smith said, adding that corn was used as a binding agent in the feed, otherwise it is a mess. He said the school has 15,000 pounds of algae at the agricultural building that will be turned to pellets soon.
The algae research has not only shed light on a new livestock feed, but provided students with opportunities to expand their horizons.
Udall asked the students how they think their involvement in the research will benefit their careers.
“I just want to be a teacher,” graduate student Julia Tucker said, “but knowing these research skills will help me to teach science.”
Undergraduate Beth Blind said, “A lot of the research I do will help me get into a good veterinarian school.”
Smith said the students have traveled to New Orleans, Portland, Ore., Phoenix and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada among other places to give presentations.
The Department of Energy funded $950,000 of the grant and Sapphire Energy Inc., a renewable energy solutions company with facilities in Southern California and New Mexico, funded $250,000, according to Jennifer Talhelm, Udall’s communications director.