Should Hemp CBD Biomass Be Used as Feed for Farm Animals?
Hemp farmers, in conjunction with researchers from Oregon State University (OSU), are evaluating the possibility of using CBD byproducts to produce feedstuff for farm animals.
The hemp industry in Oregon relies on the sales of cannabidiol (CBD) and smokable flowers. Once these two have been extracted or harvested from the farm, the rest of the plant materials left behind have little or no value.
Since the Farm Bill was approved in 2018, the industry has discovered many uses for hemp plants, and throughout these three years that the bill has been put to work, the U.S. hemp market has generated millions of dollars in revenue from the sector.
Hemp plants are primarily valued for their CBD-rich composition. They also serve as raw materials in producing industrial products like paper, plastics, clothing, shoes, textiles, ropes, biofuel, insulation materials, and even food.
The plant is versatile!
A few days ago, researchers at OSU gathered to discuss the potential usefulness of producing animal feed from CBD byproducts. Rather than allowing large amounts of hemp byproducts to be destroyed, animals like cows, sheep, goats, chickens, and pigs can be fed. Research on this subject has been warped for a while. During the discussion, Dr. Serkan Ates, a professor in the Animal and Rangeland Sciences Department, revealed that there was a great potential for this to work.
Dr. Ates recently concluded a two-year research trial where ranging levels of hemp byproduct were incorporated into farm animals’ feed. The trial’s objective was to determine the effects the different amounts of byproducts had on the animals’ health and whether or not they influenced the animals’ behavior. The team also monitored the duration of time for the animals’ digestive systems to break down the tiny amounts of psychoactive compounds (THC) in the plant.
If this potential proves true, livestock farmers will be able to cut down on their feed expenses on the farm because hemp byproducts are way cheaper than other feedstuff.
The researchers studied the events that followed after an animal consumed hemp byproducts to determine its potential as a cash crop.
Hemp biomass could be a high-quality feedstuff. It has similar proximate compositions as alfalfa. In fact, some hemp biomass has a higher protein and fat design than other commonly used feeds.
In the feeding trial experiment, the researchers replaced alfalfa with hemp in varying amounts and durations.
For four to eight weeks, the sheep were fed 10-20% hemp. A control group that was fed only alfalfa was maintained. After eight weeks, the initial results proved that the animals placed on the hemp diet performed exceptionally well. There was a noticeable body weight gain, as well as improved health metrics.
For lambs, about 10% hemp biomass can be added to the diet plan. The researchers reported that no detrimental effect was observed on the animals’ performance, but rather than feed intake increased significantly.
The dairy cows in this study were fed 15% spent hemp biomass for four weeks. Although the cows showed signs of higher milk productivity, it was observed that the cows’ appetites lessened during and after this period. The milk also had a lower fat composition.
Before any concrete decision can be made, in-depth research will be needed to confirm the current hypothesis.
Step-by-step analysis of each diet, as well as a comprehensive breakdown of the observations, is vital to arrive at a conclusion on whether or not spent hemp biomass is a more cost-efficient feedstuff for livestock farmers.
Dr. Ates said that the most critical aspect of the research is figuring out if alfalfa or any of the other traditional feedstuffs can be replaced with hemp biomass. If it can be, the total feed cost can be reduced to an extent. Next year, the researchers plan to run a feeding trial with spent hemp biomass on poultry.
The proposed hemp byproducts, also known as hemp biomass, intended for producing animal feed are not the most valuable part of the plant. Due to this, hundreds of hemp farmers do not mind throwing the bulk of it out. With the recent development, the stakeholders in the state’s go industry are starting to hope that the production of a final feed with the biomass would be a more effective way to dispose of the mass long-term. It would also create a new market, guaranteeing more profit.
In the last two years, following the approval of medical and recreational cannabis laws in various stages across the country, the HP industry has seen a sharp decline in the number of demands. The market is oversupplied with hemp, which causes the cost and profit generated by the farmers to drop considerably.
This lousy situation can also be attributed to the boom that followed the post-farm bill boom in 2019. During this period, hundreds of cannabis entrepreneurs jumped into the market without proper investigation. This caused the supply chain to be porous, with customer demand reducing each month.
Reports have it that out of 64,000 acres which were licensed in 2019 for hemp cultivation, only 7,000 acres of farmland are still licensed with the Oregon Department of Agriculture for the same purpose. In 2020, it was about 27,500 acres. According to these statistics, many farmers have given up on the dream of a green rush.
Many livestock farms are located in Oregon, and if this works, many of this livestock can be fed hemp biomass. The best way to repurpose the hemp industry is to create a new avenue for the unused materials of the plant. This way, more value will be attached to the plant. Jacob Crabtree, CEO of Columbia Hemp Trading Company, also agreed that this would effectively establish a sustainable marketplace for hemp plants and their byproducts.
The hemp industry might be in for another green rush if hemp is confirmed to be beneficial to livestock. Exciting times for cannabis enthusiasts!