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Researchers put hemp in cattle feed. Here’s what happened.


Michael Kleinhenz, assistant professor of beef production medicine at the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine, has published a new study that finds benefits to feeding industrial hemp to cattle.

Researchers at Kansas State University added hemp to the meals of cattle for two weeks.

What happened next?


The cattle were less stressed and spent more time lying down, according to the results of a study published in Scientific Reports in March.

“That could prove beneficial to ranchers because relaxed steers tend to be healthier,” reported Suzanne Perez for the Wichita-based radio station KMUW.


Details of the Study

Researchers from the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine divided 16 Holstein males into two groups. They kept one group on a standard meal plan.


For the other, they mixed 25 grams of CBDa-rich hemp into 200 grams of grain once a day for two weeks. CBDa is the chemical precursor to CBD.

The research team tracked behavior and stress indicators in both groups. They found that the group fed a hemp-supplemented diet had lower levels of cortisol and prostaglandin. Cortisol is a biomarker of stress and prostaglandin indicates inflammation.


The second group also spent more time lying down, which supports rumination and the production of saliva.


“This shows that hemp containing cannabidiolic acid, or CBDa, may decrease stress and inflammation in cattle.”

— Mike Kleinhenz, K-State College of Veterinary Medicine


‘A Natural Way to Decrease Stress and Inflammation’

Mike Kleinhenz, assistant professor of beef production medicine at the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine and the study’s lead author, said hemp shows promise as a natural way to minimize stress-related ailments.


“Cattle experience a variety of stress and inflammation,” he said. “Our most recent data shows how cannabinoids via industrial hemp decreased the stress hormone cortisol as well as the inflammatory biomarker prostaglandin E2. This shows that hemp containing cannabidiolic acid, or CBDa, may decrease stress and inflammation in cattle. Thus, hemp may be a natural way to decrease stress and inflammation related to production practices such as transportation and weaning.”


“Hemp may be a natural way to decrease stress and inflammation related to production practices such as transportation and weaning.”

— Mike Kleinhenz, K-State College of Veterinary Medicine


He noted that the CBDA didn’t accumulate in the blood, aligning with previous research that different cannabinoids are absorbed and eliminated at different rates.


"Our new research helps us better understand how cannabinoids present in industrial hemp interact with bovine physiology and pharmacology," Kleinhenz said.

The research is timely in part because of recent proposals to introduce hemp into animal feed.


“The initial data we have collected is essential should industrial hemp and its by-products be considered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Association of American Feed Control Officials,” Kleinhenz said.


He added that more research is needed to understand the what happens when cattle are fed hemp for extended periods of time.

“Further work is needed to determine if cannabinoids can alter the stress response in cattle during stressful times such as transportation and weaning, but we hope this research is a step forward in the right direction.”



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