Article Summary:  Did you know that on WA's south coast, farmers are conducting a trial to enhance their cattle and marron's health and meat quality? They are feeding hemp-based pellets to the livestock to explore potential benefits. Hemp is a versatile and nutritious plant that benefits livestock health. It can be applied in several ways and to many types of animals, not just limited to cattle! Let’s take a look and answer your burning questions on the topic, from applications, health benefits, drawbacks, and legislation of using hemp as feed in your region.

On WA's south coast, farmers are conducting a trial to enhance the health and meat quality of the cattle on their pastures and the marron in their dams. They are feeding hemp-based pellets to the animals to explore the potential benefits.

Hemp, a variety of cannabis with low THC and cannabinoid content, is legally grown and consumed under license. Raintree Estate, home to a licensed hemp crop mainly used for producing hemp spirit for gin and vodka, is now utilising the by-product from the distilling process as hemp-based pellets for the cattle and marron.

In this independent study, nine Angus-Wagyu cross cattle receive the hemp pellets, while the control herd continues with their regular pasture fodder. The goal is to assess the impact of hemp-based feed on the animals' health and meat quality.

Such innovative trials allow you to improve your livestock's well-being and product quality. By exploring the benefits of hemp-based nutrition, this farm is driven by better farming practices supporting healthier and more sustainable animal outcomes.

What do the results say so far?

The director of the hemp farm providing the feed has reported that based on hemp’s high levels of omegas, essential fatty acids and protein, the farm should, over time, see a decrease in cholesterol in the animals. And, when used in human consumption, a meat product ‘healthier than anything else on the shelf’.

The bigger picture suggests an improvement for animal health, human health, and the planet, but also a change to meat quality and composition and its impact on overall animal health and human health.

Hemp is a versatile and nutritious plant that benefits livestock condition, viability and longevity. It can be applied in several ways and to many types of animals, not just limited to cattle! Let’s take a look and answer your burning questions on the topic.

Tell me more about hemp

Why is hemp a great feed option?

Hemp promotes better health through:

  • High nutritional value – a rich profile of essential nutrients, from protein, healthy fats (omegas), B vitamins, iron and calcium, making it a great choice for heat-stressed cows.

  • Natural antioxidants – help combat stress and inflammation in animals

  • Balanced omega fatty acids – improve cardiovascular health, reduce inflammation and enhance livestock skin and coat condition

  • High protein content – rich in amino acids required for muscle development and growth of livestock

  • Application of hemp oil – when added to feed, can positively affect stress reduction, weight control and reproductive performance.

How can you introduce hemp in farm feeding?

  • Hemp seeds

  • Hemp meal or cake

  • Hemp oil

What kinds of livestock can eat hemp?

Hemp can be incorporated into the diets of various types of livestock, providing valuable nutritional benefits for their health and well-being. The following are some examples of livestock that can be fed hemp:

Poultry: Hemp seeds and hemp meal are excellent protein sources for poultry diets. Chickens, ducks, turkeys, and other poultry species can benefit from the nutritional profile of hemp, including its essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.

Swine: Hemp meal can also serve as a valuable protein supplement for pigs! Including hemp in their diets can improve growth rates and reproductive performance.

Ruminants: Cattle, sheep, and goats can also benefit from hemp. When properly incorporated into their rations, hemp meal can enhance their overall health and support muscle development.

Equine: You can also feed hemp to your horses! Either hemp seeds or hemp meal can be a supplement to their regular feed. The balanced omega fatty acids in hemp can support their cardiovascular health and contribute to better skin and coat conditions.

Aquaculture: Some aquaculture species, such as fish and crustaceans, can also be fed hemp as part of their diets. Hemp's protein content and essential nutrients can promote healthy growth in these aquatic animals.

Which global farming regions feed hemp to livestock?

USA: Hemp cultivation was federally legalised with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. This legalisation has increased interest in exploring various uses of hemp, including as livestock feed. While some farmers have incorporated hemp into their livestock diets, the practice is still relatively new and may be subject to regional regulations and guidelines.

UK (and Europe): In Europe, hemp has been cultivated for various purposes, including industrial applications and animal feed. Many European countries, including France, the Netherlands, Germany, and others, have embraced hemp cultivation. Using hemp as livestock feed has gained traction in these regions due to its nutritional benefits and eco-friendly attributes.

South America: Hemp cultivation and its use in livestock feed are gradually gaining attention in some South American countries. The legal status and adoption of hemp for animal feed may vary from country to country. Argentina, Uruguay, and Colombia are among the countries that have been exploring hemp cultivation and its potential applications.

Australia & New Zealand: Hemp cultivation is legal in Australia, and interest in using hemp for various applications, including livestock feed, has been growing. However, like in other regions, the use of hemp in livestock diets is still in the early stages, with ongoing research and exploration into its benefits.

Things are progressing fast…

It's important to note that hemp regulations and acceptance are constantly changing. That’s why it’s best to stay updated on local laws and guidelines, especially in incorporating it into livestock diets. Consulting with local agricultural authorities and animal nutritionists can provide you with valuable insights into the current status of hemp use in your region. 

What are the drawbacks of using hemp as feed?

With its numerous benefits, some risks can be associated with feeding hemp to your animals.

Legal and Regulatory Concerns: The legal status of hemp cultivation and usage can vary from country to country and even within different states or regions. You must ensure compliance with local regulations and guidelines to avoid potential legal issues.

THC Content: Hemp plants contain trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound found in marijuana. While hemp cultivated for industrial use typically has THC levels below the legal threshold, it's crucial to use hemp varieties with low THC content to prevent unintended animal psychoactive effects.

Nutrient Imbalance: While hemp is a valuable protein and nutrient source, using it as the sole feed component may cause an imbalance of certain nutrients, such as calcium or phosphorus. Proper ration balancing and consultation with animal nutritionists must ensure a well-rounded and nutritionally complete diet.

Allergies or Sensitivities: Some animals may have allergies or sensitivities to specific components in hemp, particularly in larger quantities. Introducing hemp gradually and monitoring the animals' responses is essential to identify potential adverse reactions.

Mycotoxin Contamination: Improper storage of hemp or other feed ingredients can lead to mycotoxin contamination, which can harm animals. Following proper storage and handling practices is essential to mitigate this risk.  

Cost and Availability: The cost of hemp as livestock feed may vary depending on the region, cultivation practices, and processing methods. Hemp availability may be limited in some areas, making it less accessible for certain farmers.

Limited Research: While hemp shows promise as livestock feed, research on its long-term effects and optimal inclusion rates for various species is still relatively limited. We need further research to fully understand the potential benefits and associated risks. 

But it’s not all bad…

Despite these potential drawbacks, many farmers have successfully incorporated hemp as a feed alternative into their livestock diets with positive results. As with any new feed ingredient, careful evaluation, consultation with experts, and gradual implementation are essential to maximise the benefits of using hemp as livestock feed while minimising potential risks.

Hemp’s nutritional richness, natural antioxidants, and balanced omega fatty acids contribute to better overall well-being and immune function for animals and humans, too. Implementing hemp into farm feeding practices can be done through various forms, such as hemp seeds, hemp meal, or hemp oil. As hemp cultivation gains momentum globally, you can explore its availability, cost-effectiveness, and eco-friendliness and, hopefully, incorporate this valuable feed option into your farming operations soon!

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Until we meet again, Happy Farmer!

- The Dedicated Team of, 2023-08-01