Evaluation of seaweeds from marine waters in Northwestern Europe for application in animal nutrition

P. Bikker, L. Stokvis*, M.M. van Krimpen, P.G. van Wikselaar, J.W. Cone

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


The increasing demand for animal protein by the growing world population intensifies the exploration of novel feed sources. This study evaluated the nutritional value of six intact seaweed species (i.e. the brown species Saccharina latissima, Laminaria digitata, and Ascophyllum nodossum, the red species Palmaria palmata, and Chondrus crispus and green species Ulva lactuca), collected from the coast of Ireland, Scotland and France as an ingredient for animal feed. The nutrient composition, in vitro digestibility, and in vitro gas production simulating rumen fermentation, were determined. The nutrient contents (g/kg dry matter), both between and within species, were highly variable, ranging from 45–248 for crude protein, 351–691 for non-starch polysaccharides, and 173–445 for ash. Overall, the brown seaweeds had the highest non-starch polysaccharides content, whereas samples of the red and green seaweeds had an amino acid content up to 265 g/kg dry matter. All samples had a substantial non-protein nitrogen fraction, varying from 0.12–0.29 of nitrogen. The fibre fractions of brown seaweeds showed different properties than land-based plants, as illustrated by a lower analysed neutral detergent fibre than acid detergent fibre content. The ileal organic matter and nitrogen digestibility, as well as the total tract organic matter digestibility (mean digestibility coefficients: 0.81, 0.89 and 0.88, respectively) were lower for all seaweeds compared to soybean meal (digestibility coefficients: 0.84, 0.98 and 0.97, respectively). S. latissima, L digitata, P. palmata and U. lactuca had a higher maximum gas production than alfalfa, but lower than sugar beet pulp. Based on the protein content and amino acid-pattern, intact P. palmata and U. lactuca would be a valuable protein source for farm animals, with the high non-starch polysaccharides and non-protein nitrogen contents and a low in vitro digestibility potentially limiting their use as a feed ingredient for monogastric species. The fermentability of L. digitata, S. latissima and P. palmata indicate that these intact seaweeds may have a higher nutritional value in ruminants. The high ash content in all seaweed species hampers the use of intact seaweed for both ruminants and monogastrics. Extraction of protein and other favourable components, while reducing the ash content, seems an important step towards seaweed inclusion in animal diets. Further identification and characterisation of seaweed polysaccharides is required to understand and improve the digestibility of seaweed fractions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114460
JournalAnimal Feed Science and Technology
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Animal feed
  • Chemical composition
  • Gas production
  • In vitro digestibility
  • Seaweed


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