The study of algal biofuel is a young industry that is making strides in finding a purpose as renewable fuel. But, can it also fuel livestock? That is exactly what an associate professor at New Mexico State University is hoping to discover through her research combining algal co-product with livestock feed.

Shanna Ivey, with the Department of Animal and Range Sciences, is working with an alliance - which involves several departments at NMSU - that is studying algal biofuel and bio products.

Ivey said her role in the project is to research the benefits of the co-product left over after oil is extracted from algae.

"The biggest challenge we face now is that algae is a wonderful idea, but it is challenging to grow enough biomass to do a full animal experiment, because it takes quite a bit of algae especially for cattle," she said.

Texas A&M University, a partner in the alliance, is using one strain of algal co-product on livestock. For her part in the research, Ivey is taking a more scientific approach that allows her to work with six strains of algae while using no animals.

"We have continuous flow fermenters that are basically an artificial rumen," she said. "For our study, we require only two kilograms of material whereas, to do an animal study would take a ton of material."

Ivey and her team take ruminal fluid from cows and conduct fermentation in the lab that simulates as if they were to feed a cow. She is using algae from the Fabian Garcia Science Center and an algae farm in Pecos, Texas.

As part of the $50 million Department of Energy grant, various members of the consortium grow algae. The algae is then sent to Valicor in Michigan where the oil is extracted and the co-product is distributed to the various partners.

"This co-product is high in protein," Ivey said. "It's about 25 to 30 percent crude protein which is good for livestock. It seems to also have some carbohydrates as well, and some residual oil that can be used as energy."

Due to crude protein requirements for livestock feed, researchers are looking to mix as high as 15 percent of the co-product into the total diet.