In a recent study, researchers at Oregon State University found that spent hemp biomass can be considered an alternative feed for lambs.
Hemp and its byproducts are currently not approved for use in animal feed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO); however, FDA approval for spent hemp biomass to be allowed for use in livestock diets would allow CBD hemp farmers to have an end use for their leftover hemp byproducts.
Earlier this year, AAFCO issued a joint letter of concern calling for more research on hemp in animal feed to ensure it is safe for the public, animals and industry, Cannabis Business Times reported.
“We understand the importance of supporting the hemp industry, and yet we also believe it is simply too soon to know whether hemp is safe for farm and ranch animals, as well as for our pets,” AAFCO said in the letter. “Our goal is for more research to ensure the safety and well-being of the public, our animals, and our agricultural industry.”
And researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) have taken the initiative and conducted several studies on feeding spent hemp biomass to livestock.
In a recent study published Aug. 12 in the Journal of Animal Science, OSU researchers “fed male lambs two different amounts of spent hemp biomass (10% and 20% of total feed) and then withheld the hemp biomass for four weeks, a so-called withdrawal period. They then assessed weight gain, carcass characteristics, meat quality and health parameters of the lambs,” according to a press release.
The study found that adding spent hemp biomass to the lambs’ diets did not have “any major detrimental effects to the health of the animals or their meat quality,” according to the release.
Other findings from the study include:
Spent hemp biomass had the same nutritional quality as alfalfa, “which is commonly fed to lambs, and presents lower palatability and better digestibility,” according to the release.Feeding the lambs 20% spent hemp biomass had a negative effect on their feed intake in the short term, not the long term, while feeding the lambs 10% spent hemp biomass increased long-term feed intake but did not affect the lambs’ weight.Feeding spent hemp biomass to lambs did not have any detrimental effects on meat quality or other parameters related to the carcass, “except for an increase in shrink and cook loss that also may affect the tenderness,” according to the release.The spent hemp biomass improved the lambs’ antioxidant capacity and did not negatively affect the animal’s metabolism. “The liver of the animals was not affected, but a decrease in liver clearance was observed, the ability of the liver to extract or metabolize a drug. The authors indicated that this last finding requires further investigation since it could affect the clearance of other drugs that may be give[n] to lambs,” the release states.
Dr. Serkan Ates, Ph.D., researcher and associate professor in OSU’s Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences, said while there is still research needed on the use of hemp in livestock diets, it can still “be considered a safe feed for ruminants and a good alternative to alfalfa for livestock.”
“The findings are important for both hemp farmers and livestock producers because they provide evidence that this byproduct of hemp can be used in livestock diets,” Ates said. “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.”