A new study by Kansas State University finds that feeding cattle industrial hemp may have a beneficial effect on their welfare: a reduction in stress and increasing the times when they lie down.
“Cattle experience a variety of stress and inflammation,” said Michael Kleinhenz, assistant professor of beef production medicine at the Kansas State College of Veterinary Medicine, who says his research led him to believe that hemp may be a natural way to decrease problems related to cattle production practices such as transportation and weaning.
“We fed industrial hemp to a group of Holstein steers. I want to stress that this was high cannabinoid industrial hemp, so we had a high amount of cannabinoids, specifically cannabidiolic acid, which is the precursor to CBD, so what you see in gummies and things like that, outside pharmacies all over the place. It is a similar compound to that, we fed to these cattle.”
Kleinhenz says they put accelerometers on the calves to monitor the amount of activity each animal had during the day to see if there was any impacts on stress.
“When we looked at their activity throughout the day, our industrial hemp calves spent a lot more time lying. And so, that kind of shows us they’re a little bit less stressful, and it was a complete inversion.
“So, our groups, we monitored about four days before we actually started feeding hemp and our hemp calves actually spent less time lying, had a little bit more activity. And as soon as we started feeding hemp, they started laying down a little bit more. And that was also supported by our cortisol results.
“So, cortisol is a stress hormone, and our hemp fed calves had lower stress cortisol throughout the whole study, so we felt pretty comfortable that we had a nice stress reduction there.”
Another benefit observed when feeding cattle industrial hemp is that they lie down more, which can help them ruminate and produce saliva.
Kleinhenz says it may be beneficial to use hemp to keep cattle calmer and reduce their stress.
“By the looks of it I think this very much does have a future and especially if we can get hemp seed meal through the AAFCO/FDA process, that’s one avenue that we can open the doors and lower the barriers to get a lot of these into the system.
“And it does have quite a bit of potential, when we look this has a really nice nutrient profile, 20 percent crude protein, looks to be digestible and things like that, so there’s a use for it, we just have to figure out where that use is,” according to Kleinhenz.
Sources: NAFB, Kansas State University