An Oregon State University study has found spent hemp biomass left over from CBD extraction – usually just treated as waste or plowed back into fields – is looking to be a good feed alternative for lambs.
Believed to be the first study evaluating the effects of feeding spent hemp biomass to livestock, the research involved feeding lambs different amounts of spent hemp biomass (10% and 20% of total feed). Then the hemp biomass was withheld for four weeks and the lambs assessed for carcass characteristics, meat quality and health parameters.
The researchers found the nutritional quality of spent hemp biomass on par with alfalfa. Among other findings were feed intake being negatively affected by feeding 20% spent hemp biomass – but only in the short term. At the lower level of 10%, feed intake increased long-term but there were no effects on lamb weight.
The OSU researchers note while the livers of the animals were not affected, a decrease in the ability of the liver to extract or metabolize a drug was observed, which will require more research.
As for meat quality, aside from some shrink and cook loss that also may affect the tenderness, other aspects in relation to carcass and meat quality weren’t affected by the lambs feeding on spent hemp biomass.
Overall, the study provided very positive results. But there is a major roadblock to using hemp in livestock feed in the USA, and a number of other countries – it’s illegal. In the USA, animal feed is regulated at a federal level by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA-CVM). Hemp will first need to be approved by the FDA-CVM for this application; and it wants a bunch of research done before this will happen..
“If the Food and Drug Administration approves its use as an animal feedstuff, hemp farmers could have a market for what is essentially a waste product and livestock producers may be able to save money by supplementing their feed with the spent hemp biomass,” said Serkan Ates, an associate professor in Oregon State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.
While still illegal at a federal level, some US states have gone their own way on the use of hemp as a stock feed. For example, in Montana hemp can be used for pets and horses; but those animals cannot enter interstate or intrastate commerce as they would be considered “adulterated” at a federal level.
On a related note, we mentioned last week Idaho State Department of Agriculture is banning animal health supplements containing hemp and CBD based on the “adulteration” issue. Still, with more research being performed on the use of hemp in animals, including livestock, it seems inevitable that at some point the practice will be legal.
The OSU team’s findings were recently published in the Journal of Animal Science.
Learn more about other agricultural uses of hemp.