Cbd oil for livestock

Animal scientists are researching the benefits of feeding hemp to cows.

As byproducts of a growing U.S. hemp industry pile up, Oregon State and Kansas State universities are weighing whether the non-psychoactive relative of marijuana would make a nutritious, safe and environmentally positive feed source for dairy cows and other livestock.

Both universities were recently approved for United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants of $200,000 each to fund trials looking at the effects of feeding hemp to cattle.

Hemp was federally approved in the 2018 Farm Bill after decades of prohibition, opening up a new crop expected to reach agricultural commodity status, according to Oregon State University’s Global Hemp Innovation Center, inspiring a rush of research and interest in hemp-derived products.

With new hemp-based industries will come waste byproducts the livestock feed industry is hoping to utilize.

“A lot of this (potential hemp byproduct) would go to landfills or compost at best,” Michael Kleinhenz, Ph.D., assistant professor of beef production medicine at Kansas State University, told the Daily Churn. “If we can put it into a bovine for little to nothing, that’s a win-win for everyone.”

Disrupting the feed industry

With their four-part digestive system perfect for breaking down fibrous plant material, ruminant animals consume many inedible plant byproducts leftover from other industries. Dairy cattle alone divert from landfills up to 306 million pounds of food waste a day, as reported by the Daily Churn.

Industry experts, including Hunter Buffington, executive director of the Colorado-based Hemp Feed Coalition (HFC), believe that a growing U.S. hemp sector will soon produce enough byproducts to support a hemp livestock feed industry and disrupt the $27.8 billion global feed market.

Kleinhenz has already conducted two studies looking at the effects of feeding hemp biomass — the leftover leaves, stems and flowers — on cattle. With the new USDA grant, he will study whether cannabinoids are detectable in meat and milk products after hemp is fed.

Obstacles to feeding cows cannabis

Residual cannabinoids from hemp can’t be present in human-consumed products, according to FDA food safety rules. That includes cannabinoids passed down from hemp-fed cows.

Marijuana and hemp are the same plant species, Cannabis sativa, and produce many chemical compounds including 100 different types of cannabinoids, according to a 2019 study in Science Direct. But hemp — as legally required in the 2018 Farm Bill — can only contain minuscule amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive cannabinoid that marijuana is known for.

The potential risk that residual cannabinoids in hemp-fed byproducts (including minor amounts of THC) will carry through to final products has been a big barrier for hemp feed approval, Kleinhenz says. Still, Patrick Atagi, board chairman of the National Industrial Hemp Council (NIHC), is convinced that hemp is a highly useful and “legitimate crop” for U.S. farmers.

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The NIHC will use their grant awarded via the USDA market access program to research and promote U.S.-grown hemp for international markets, Atagi told the Daily Churn.

Playing catchup

Hemp produces a high-protein grain valuable for human consumption and essential oils extracted for legal, non-intoxicating cannabinoids like CBD. The plant also produces two types of fiber potentially useful for everything from clothing and building materials to packaging and toilet paper.

Yet, because of decades of prohibition, the U.S. is playing catch-up on hemp cultivation, production and manufacturing. Most of the fiber currently used by U.S. manufacturers is grown elsewhere, Atagi says, asking for patience to build out the country’s nascent hemp sector.

“When Thomas Edison developed the light bulb, he didn’t light up New York City the next day,” he adds. In the meantime, the HFC is pushing through the long and “painful” process of getting U.S. approval for hemp feed, Buffington says.

Each type of hemp feed must be approved for each animal sector it will be fed to by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA-CVM) as well as the Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO).

The HFC’s first application to AAFCO is for hemp meal byproducts (left over from producing human-grade hemp seed oil) to chickens, Buffington says. As the approval process moves forward and more studies are completed, they will add more animals and other types of hemp byproducts, including the spent biomass Kleinhenz has been researching.

It is hemp’s global potential to sustainably replace other feed sources that has Serkan Ates, Ph.D., an assistant professor researching forage and livestock production at Oregon State University, most excited. Ates recently finished a study feeding spent hemp biomass to market lambs and will begin a study feeding hemp biomass to dairy cows in the spring of 2021.

Starting from scratch

Leftover from extracting CBD from Oregon’s CBD hemp growers, hemp biomass has a 20 percent crude protein level, very similar to alfalfa — a high-protein crop commonly fed to livestock, according to Ates. In western Oregon, farmers have to import most of their alfalfa for animal feed from the other side of the state, where it is produced using a lot of irrigation.

If western Oregon farmers can replace alfalfa with leftover hemp biomass from Oregon’s growing CBD hemp industry (worth an estimated $1 billion in 2019), that’s a win for lowering livestock’s carbon footprint, Ates says. Plus, it gives hemp farmers an outlet for biomass that would “otherwise go wasted.”

Ates also believes there will be a healthy import market for hemp feed to countries that can’t grow their feedstocks, providing a “worst-case scenario” for hemp byproduct feed if U.S. approval lags.

Ates and Kleinhenz agree the biggest challenge for hemp feed is all the research yet to be done. Because of the decades of hemp prohibition, U.S. scientists have had to start from scratch to build a body of research on feeding hemp.

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“Nobody has ever done this before,” says Ates. “There’s not even a single paper for spent hemp.”

Another challenge they observed is that the hemp biomass had a strong “marijuana” smell that not all animals liked. Ates and Kleinhenz overcame the aversion to the smell by grinding the biomass up and pelletizing it with other feed products.

Aromatic terpenes in hemp biomass create the uniquely identifiable smell associated with the cannabis plant. While some of Ates’ lambs didn’t mind it, others wouldn’t touch it no matter “how hungry they were.”

Images:: Joe Montgomery, director of communications, KSU college of veterinary medicine

Turning a CBD farming byproduct into livestock feed

What happens if you feed cannabis to sheep? It’s a question that livestock scientists are actually wondering about at Oregon State University. They’re trying to develop a new animal feed market for industrial hemp. OPB science reporter Jes Burns recently joined JPR’s Liam Moriarty to explain what they’re up to.

Liam Moriarty: Hi, Jes, welcome back . So explain to me; exactly what are these scientists doing?

Jes Burns: Well, these researchers at Oregon State are taking a hemp by-product — they call it “spent hemp biomass” — and seeing if it’s appropriate to use as an animal feed. This byproduct is left over after the hemp is processed to make CBD oil. You got to kind of think of it like the grain mash left over after brewing beer or liquor, except his is just a bunch of leaves and stems of the hemp plant. One of the researchers involved, Serkan Ate s, told me what these hemp processors are facing.

Ates: Currently, all the hemp processed — spent hemp biomass — nobody know what to do with that material.

JB: So, if you could sell it as an animal feed, you could actually generate some money off of something that would have been just waste.

LM: That’s interesting. So, how do scientists know if this stuff is good for the animals to eat?

JB: They’ve conducted feeding trials with sheep and dairy cows so far. And what they do in these trials is they substitute this spent hemp for alfalfa in their feed, in different quantities and for different amounts of times. And while they’re doing this, they track how much the animals eat, how much they weigh, you know, how much weight they’re gaining and a whole bunch of other health metrics. And then they also test whether any cannabinoids, like THC, are detectable in the animal’s systems during and after they eat the hemp, supplemented feed.

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LM: Okay, and what have they found?

JB: Well, nutritionally hemp is as good or better than alfalfa. The preliminary data for sheep is that initially, they don’t like it. Like, the sheep just don’t eat as much when you add hemp and they think it possibly could be because of the smell or the flavor. But then, after about four weeks, those sheep seem to really get a taste for it and they actually end up eating more feed every day and putting on a little more weight. The cows ate less of the hemp feed, but then they produce more milk, but also that milk had a lower energy content. So it’s kind of mixed early results on the dairy side of things. But Ates told me that the hemp doesn’t have to be better than alfalfa. It just has to perform similarly in order for it to be a suitable substitute, right? And at least for the sheep, it appears that it would be a good option.

LM: Why is there so much focus on finding new markets for hemp right now?

JB: Well, we saw what happened firsthand right in southern Oregon in 2018. The United States fully legalized hemp production. And then there was this huge rush to cash in in Oregon. That first year, more than 60,000 a cres were licensed with the state. And a lot of those acres were in the Rogue Valley and in Jackson and Josephine Counties But then, the market was flooded with product almost immediately. This year, the total number of acres licensed with the state, by comparison, is 7,000 acres. So over 60,000 to 7,000 acres. So, that’s a huge drop. The thought is, opening up an animal feed market could help bring some stability to the industry.

LM: So, when does this hemp animal feed go on the market? When are farmers going to be able to start using this stuff?

JB: Yeah, not any time real soon. We’re still a long way and the main issue is that it is technically illegal to feed it to animals intended for human consumption. The rub is the cannabinoids that I talked about earlier? The Food and Drug Administration is concerned that the THC will pass from the animals into humans and the FDA hasn’t established with the acceptable limits for THC consumption. So, the researchers did detect cannabinoids in the lambs and in the milks. So, until the FDA provides the guidance or hemp breeders, can figure out how to fully breed out THC out of hemp plants, the market for hemp animal feed, at least in the United States, is going to remain closed.