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Everything You Need To Know About Hemp Feed

Posted by Tom Lingeman on

A crop of hemp during sunrise.

Everything You Need To Know About Hemp Feed

What can’t hemp be used for? Remove the obvious answers like: televisions, cellphones, rocket ships, etc; you are left with a very short list. If you are familiar with the topics we cover here, then you already knew this. 

You were already aware that hemp is an incredibly versatile plant, a plant which can positively impact our future if we implement it in the right ways. Hemp can be a substitute for our paper industry and plastics, both major pollutants of our planet. 

But did you know hemp could play a major role in the farming industry? That's right, hemp can even be used as feed for livestock.

There are organizations out there like the Hemp Feed Coalition that are trying to make hemp seed feed a reality. Making this a common practice all across the country will be a benefit for the farmers, the animals, and us.

We are not far away from seeing this change happen at a small scale level; one state has already passed a law allowing for this switch to happen. So now is as good as any to break down this potential breakthrough.

What does hemp feed seed mean and what are we currently using?  What are the benefits of using hemp as animal feed? Most importantly, what kinds of hurdles is the industry facing?

 

A hen pecking at some seed.

What Is Animal Feed?

First important thing to know, there are two types of animal feed: fodder and forage. When you hear the term ‘animal feed’ they are typically referring to fodder; any food that is directly given to the animals intended for them to eat, pretty simple. 

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Forage is when the animal eats any certain crop while out in the pasture. For cattle, this is what the animal starts off on. Once they reach a certain weight they are switched over to fodder, this is commonly referred to the feedlot. Here they will be fed to maintain this weight until it is time for them to be sent to the market. 

If you are really interested in the way we feed our livestock, some cows spend their whole lives on the pasture and are never sent to the feedlot. 

What type of crops are we talking about here? Good question. Typical animal feed consists of: corn, wheat, soybean hulls, cottonseed meal, and soy oils. This  whole group is referred to as distilled dried grains, or DDG. 


Feed Facts: Just how much does a cow eat? A lot. Cows will consume about 2% of their body weight each day, which evens out to roughly 24 pound a day. 


We are currently getting our animal feed as a result of byproduct from the agricultural industry. Residual material is sent to feed mills where it is processed and distributed to farmers where it becomes food for our food. 

This process is a good thing, it means we are actively trying to reduce our waste production by making sure nothing goes unused. Unlike causing deforestation due to the paper industry or polluting our waterways with plastics.

Now, I’m sure there are downsides to this agricultural system, but that can be covered another day; the point here is this: we are not making abundant virgin crops just to feed our livestock. 

So, if everything is running smoothly, where does hemp factor in? 


Two brown cows grazing on a mountainous pastor.

Why Should We Switch to Hemp For Livestock Feed?

The idea is to substitute those previously mentioned DDGs for hemp. Hemp can be used to make hemp cake or hemp seed meal. This is done by cold pressing the plant in order to extract the hemp seed oil. 

This oil is the true prize, unlike the more commonly sought after cannabinoids . Hemp seed oil is considered to be a super food for humans AND animals.

There are a ton of healthy qualities to hemp seed oil that you may not be aware of, so let’s fix that with a long list! 

Hemp seed oil is;

  • Nutrient-rich 
  • High in fatty acids, such as: Omega 3, Omega 6, Omega 9 and GLA.
  • Is a good source of protein, 6.31 g per serving
  • Contains Vitamins C,BA, and E
  • Good source of minerals like: iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorus. 
  • GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe)

    Most of that is why hemp appeals to us, even though those same qualities are important for our animals too. 

    But, what makes it so appealing to farmers is its 3:1 ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids. This is ideal for producing the perfect egg. Marketplaces are already searching for eggs with high traces of amino acids; they want eggs that have the ideal 3:1 fatty acid ratio. 

    Egg laying hens that have been placed on a hemp diet have shown to pass this perfect ratio through to their eggs. This is a precise example of what using hemp seed oil as animal feed can provide for our farmers. 

    The protein levels of hemp alone could be enough to make farmers want to switch over. The high amount of cellulose found in the plant is what generates its high amount of proteins. This then creates the perfect meal for cattle. It is this  protein price that is paramount to what feed is selected. 


    Here is an excerpt on the healthy quality of  hemp:  “The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, for example, conducted a study in 2010 on how adding hemp seed cake into dairy cows’ diets would affect the milk production and composition. Researchers gave 40 Swedish Red dairy cows varied amounts of hemp seed cake over a five-month study; in the end, the milk showed positive results for increased nutritional value. In addition, in 2015, the University of Manitoba studied the effects of feeding hemp seed and its oil on hens’ egg yolk composition. The study found enrichment of the omega-3 fatty acid content in the yolks


    As we mentioned, some cows spend the end of their days at a feedlot. They will need to intake all of the protein they can get in order to reach a desired weight. The market wants cows with a lot of meat and farmers want to reap the benefits of these cash-cows. 

    This abundance of protein is critical for the success of hemp seed feed, it provides something that the other DGGs can’t offer. 

    Here is another advantage for using hemp: it is a weed. This means it can grow anywhere (where it's legal), and easily too. This will be a huge addition for the mountainous regions of the West where traditional crops like corn cannot be easily grown. Hemp does not require a ton of water to grow and has a shorter growth cycle as well, meaning it can be harvested more readily. 

    Farmers are just now beginning to see the healthy interest of using hemp seed, but there is another major benefit hemp can provide… 


    A hand with a green Earth in their palm.

    The Economical Benefits of Using Hemp Seed

    Hemp can provide an economical boost for farmers as well, this is why they will really consider making the switch. The U.S. agriculture industry, which groups in the feed grown for animals, is a thriving business that sees no signs of slowing down.

     It was determined that this industry contributes around $1 trillion annually to our GDP, U.S. Gross Domestic Product. This is largely due to massive amounts of food our livestock eats annually. Farm animals consume more than 230 million tons of feed a year, according to a study done in 2016.

     Pair this with the fact that the hemp seed market is projected to grow as our need for the product rises because of an increase in world population. There is a lot of opportunity here for farmers to capitalize on the hemp industry.


    Econ Quote of the Day:The U.S. animal feed market is expected to grow at a CAGR [compound annual growth rate] of 2.40% … to reach $83.663 billion in 2024 from $72.568 billion in 2018


    What this also means is the demand for hemp would be very high, to say the least. And a quick and smooth transfer is not possible.  It isn't economically viable for companies to change their supply over to Hemp at the moment.

    This will start to change as more farmers switch over to hemp; as  more of the crop enters the supply chain, more uses for the crop are found, which in turn creates lower prices for the end user. 

    If the industry moves in this way, it could mean hemp feed will become a cheaper option than the current DDG cattle feed; at the end of the day, this is what the farmers will care about the most. 

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    This all might be looking like a no-brainer to make the switch to hemp seed, so what’s stopping us?


    A red and white tape barrier for a grassy park.

    The Food And Drug Administration's Take On Using Hemp Feed

    The mean ol FDA, that’s who -The FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine to be exact. Anytime hemp is being involved, you can almost guarantee that the FDA is involved too. Before anything can be approved, researchers must first examine how hemp’s cannabinoids will be transferred upon consumption; or, this branch of the FDA wants to see if meat from hemp-fed cows will get us high. 

    Currently, the FDA considers any cannabinoid content in the foods we eat to not be safe for human consumption. Since they do not yet know if these cannabinoids will end up inside our bodies, or how many if so, they cannot yet approve meat that has been hemp fed.

    And really, we are talking about THC content, the major holdup for hemp’s approval in any industry. The FDA really does not want that specific cannabinoid to enter the food chain.

    Another major issue is claim; yes, the same claims that are beleaguering CBD. The FDA is concerned about the health and wellness claims surrounding hemp seed feed. Claims that we are all too familiar with: it will treat your cancer or heal your arthritis. 

    We know these claims are faulty and dangerous, but they are still being used to market hemp seed and CBD. It’s unfortunate that people are trying to market hemp and CBD in this manor. As you know there are many benefits of using either, but it will not cure all of your problems. 

    The FDA is trying to inform the public with this knowledge so they do not get tricked into believing in something that is not possible. These faulty claims are only bringing the industry down. 

    Another hurdle facing the hemp industry is a problem of technicalities. The FDA is requiring that different portions of the hemp plant also need to be cleared for safe consumption.

    This approval will need to be made by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) so it then can be introduced as a feed ingredient. The AAFCO is a non-profit organization that regulates what goes into the food we give our livestock and pets. They are to the feed industry as what the U.S. Hemp Authority is to the CBD industry. 

    Luckily, the Hemp Feed Coalition is working on creating a new definition of hemp seed meal and cake to be adopted. They sent in a sample of their cake and meal to the FDA to be tested and analyzed.

     

    Here is a graphic of the whole process, from the HFC website:

    Ingredient Approval Pathway

     

    Unfortunately, this whole testing process is costly and rigorous, forcing the whole movement into a crawl. The FDA has established a very high bar for hemp to be used as a food ingredient. 

    However, this hasn’t stopped everyone from making the switch.


    Two windmills on a farm on a cloudy day.

    Who Has Made The Switch To Hemp Feed

    Montana recently passed a law that will allow hemp to be used as feed for livestock. This is huge, Montana ranks 6th in America in beef production. Hopefully, this will serve as an important example of why farmers should give their livestock hemp feed seed. 


    Here is what the bill details; 

    1.  Clarifies that hempseed food ingredients and hemp-derived products are included in the definition of commercial feed
    2.  Provides authority for hemp to be used in commercial feed for pets and horses 
    3. Includes feed used for livestock, contingent upon FDA-DVM’s approval of hemp as an approved additive or defined ingredient in animal feed for livestock.

    It is up to each state to determine if hemp can be used as a food ingredient, even after the FDA has approved it as safe. Currently, no other states are suggesting for farmers to replace DDGs for hemp.

    This has not stopped the movement entirely, there is still a small amount of farmers who have introduced hemp to their farm animals. This switch is not entirely 100%, meaning the animals are not strictly fed on hemp. Instead, the farmers have implemented it as a supplement for nutritional gains.

    This might sound contradictory and even confusing. Hemp operates in a gray area. Hemp is neither legal or illegal when it comes to being used as food for pets and or livestock. It will live in this legal purgatory until it finally becomes approved by the FDA. 

     

    The content on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. While research has shown that CBD has the potential to help provide beneficial outcomes for several complaints, it is advisable to seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider when you have questions regarding any medical condition and when starting, augmenting or discontinuing any existing health routine. 

    FDA Disclaimer: Any statements made within this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. No products produced, manufactured, marketed, or distributed are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Consult your physician before beginning any supplements or botanical extracts. If pregnant or breast feeding, consult with your physician before use. For use by adults 18+. Keep out of reach of children.

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