Bob Judd, DVM, DABVP (Equine Medicine), DABVP (Canine and Feline Practice)
In 2018, growing hemp as an agricultural commodity became legal. A recent study performed at Kansas State College of Veterinary Medicine shows industrialized hemp could be fed to cattle to reduce stress.
The study, led by Dr. Michael Kleinhenz, DVM, Ph.D., found that feeding hemp caused cattle to lie down more and reduced their stress. The study fed 16 Holstein heifers over a 2-week period. Half of the heifers were fed the traditional ration and half were fed industrial hemp. Researchers suggest that feeding hemp during times of stress such as weaning, or transport may be helpful in reducing stress-related respiratory issues and infections.
During the two-week study, the researchers tracked cattle movement and monitored blood levels using biomarkers to see how well the body responds to stress. The hemp-fed cattle spent more time lying down and had lower levels of inflammation and stress hormones present in the blood. The hemp was readily absorbed through the rumen of the cattle and did not accumulate in the animal’s system.
The online site for production beef cattle, Drovers.com, says industrial hemp is of the cannabis variety and contains CBD with lower levels of the psychoactive component THC. Industrial hemp can be included in cattle rations since it has a favorable crude protein and digestibility profile.
Much like ethanol production and distiller grain by-product, CBD oil is extracted from hemp seeds and flowers and produces a large amount of plant material as waste, and this waste could be fed to livestock.
Further studies to learn the withdrawal time of CBD in cattle will need to be done to understand if meat from hemp-fed animals contains CBD, as well as the potential effects on meat products.
At this time, the US Food and Drug Administration has not approved industrial hemp to be fed to livestock or pets.