As the movement to legalize marijuana across the country expands, many are left with confusion about the hemp plant that it comes from, and its other by-products such as oils, seeds and fibers. In the case of beef cattle, scientists and veterinarians are working together to study the possibility of industrial hemp as a feed source.
Talking on a recent Beef Cattle Institute Cattle Chat podcast, Kansas State University veterinarian Mike Kleinhenz said it is important to define what is being tested as a feed source.
“The plant, Cannabis sativa, as defined by the USDA, is one that has less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),” Kleinhenz said. “This is considered industrial hemp. If it is above that 0.3 percent threshold, then it is considered marijuana.”
Kleinhenz said currently there is no legal precedent that industrialized hemp can be fed to animals. But he and a team of scientists are studying industrial hemp as a potential feed source.
“Cattle didn’t find the plant particularly palatable. We had to grind it down and mix it with something sweet like molasses to get cattle to consume it,” Kleinhenz said.
He also said the nutrient profile of industrial hemp was variable depending on the age of the plant and the part of the plant that was consumed.
“Hemp seeds, for example, are really high in protein and have a nice amino acid profile and a decent fat content, while the stalk of the plant is not very nutritious,” Kleinhenz said.
Results of K-State’s research have been published in Nature and are available online. The researchers also recently published their results in Applied Animal Science. These results provide one of the first published descriptions of the nutrient and cannabinoid concentration of industrial hemp. These findings will assist livestock producers in using industrial hemp in animal feeds through consideration of both the nutritional and cannabinoid concentrations in the ration.
To hear more of this discussion, listen to the Cattle Chat podcast online.