A new study has revealed that feeding cattle on hemp is a way to reduce their stress levels and encourages relaxation. The one-of-a-kind study was conducted by researchers from the Kansa State University College of Veterinary Medicine and was led by Dr. Michael Kleinhenz. The results of the study were published in Scientific Reports.
The study involved 16 Holstein steers as participants. For a period of two weeks, 50% of the steer were fed on traditional feed while the other 50% received hemp in addition to traditional feed. The researchers observed the behavior of the cattle during the study duration and also monitored cortisol and prostaglandin levels as stress indicators.
The results revealed that steers that were fed hemp had lower levels of stress hormones and spent more time resting and at ease. The researchers also found that the hemp cannabinoids did not accumulate in the steers systems but rather was quickly eliminated.
Hemp is a variety of cannabis sativa L. that contains trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid. For hemp to be considered legal in the U.S it must contain less than 0.3% THC. Most hemp strains contain high amounts of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD which has several therapeutic benefits.
From this study it appears that feeding hemp to cattle reduces their stress levels and the hemp-fed cattle lie down for a longer duration. Cattle with less stress levels tend to be healthier and to produce more milk. The lead researcher, Mike Kleinhenz, stated that
“Hemp may be a natural way to decrease stress and inflammation related to production practices such as transportation and weaning.” Cattle that have less stress levels are less likely to get respiratory and other infections.
Hemp Has Acidic Cannabinoids
Hemp is federally legal in the U.S and therefore free to cultivate, use, and distribute. But as mentioned earlier, the hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC. Apart from the minute THC amounts (which can be 0%), hemp contains numerous other bioactive molecules including cannabinoids and terpenes.
CBD is one of the famous hemp-derived cannabinoids. However, raw hemp, such as was given to the cattle in the study, does not contain bioactive cannabinoids such as CBD. Instead, it contains acidic cannabinoids that include CBGA, CBDA, and CBCA among others. Therefore, the researchers concluded that the CBDA (and not the CBD) was responsible for the stress-relieving properties in the hemp. In 2020, the university received a grant of $200,000 from the USDA to conduct research on the safety and benefits of industrial hemp as cattle feed.