Researchers are studying whether the crop would be a safe option
By Diego Flammini
University scientists are investigating if a relatively newly legalized crop could be used to feed cattle.
A team of Kansas State University (K-State) researchers received a $200,000 grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to determine two things: can livestock ingest hemp without THC intoxication? And would there be cannabis residue in meat and milk?
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp cultivation across the country, but individual states are responsible for coming up with their own hemp programs. These programs are then subject to USDA approval.
K-State experiments will include pilot studies to examine how feeding hemp could affect animal behavior and immune functions.
Before any producer could feed hemp to his or her livestock legally, the FDA would need to approve it through the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
The AAFCO is made up of local, state and federal agencies and is designed to regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds and medicines.
Hemp is grown for different reasons.
And even after harvest, much of the plant remains, said Michael Kleinhenz, assistant professor of beef production medicine at K-State.
"While varieties of hemp may be planted for a single or dual purpose, such as for seed and fiber, byproducts consisting of leaves, fodder and residual plant fibers remain after harvest,” he said in a Sept. 2 statement. “These byproducts could serve as potential feedstuffs for animals. Because these are predominantly cellulose-containing plant materials, the ideal species for utilizing these feeds are ruminant animals, specifically cattle."
Some studies using hemp as livestock feed have already been completed.
In 2014, for example, researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark used hemp oil and protein as feed and supplements for sows and piglets to try reducing diarrhea and mortality of young pigs.
They discovered that “the hemp seed oil resulted in direct maternal supply with n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially (alpha-linolenic acid) and (stearidonic acid),” the study reported.
Piglets were able to convert those fatty acids from the sow milk into other useful acids.