Hemp for animal feed (environmental benefits + health benefits)

Hemp, the non-psychoactive cousin of cannabis, has been known throughout history to have a multitude of medicinal and practical uses. From textile alternatives to anti-inflammatory compounds, the plant deserves the reverence it often receives. Though still suppressed by aging legislation, and a misunderstanding regarding its effect on the body, plenty of industries are continually looking to hemp as an effective substitute for the materials that currently go into modern products. Now farmers, specifically in the poultry and dairy industry, are investigating its uses as animal feed. 

Livestock cultivation is a contentious topic. It’s a massive source of pollution and has blatant effects on ecosystems. Farming destroys the natural growth of an environment when space is cleared for grazing, and the methane produced by livestock directly impacts CO2 levels in the atmosphere. 

But as the meat industry appears to be staying put, scientists are searching for healthier alternatives to the traditional corn byproducts used to feed poultry and cattle. One such option is hemp seed. Relative to other feeds, hemp is inexpensive and nutrient-rich for both humans and animals alike. It can be pressed into not just oil but cake and meal for efficient distribution and large scale feeding. Hemp Seed products further are high in fatty acids, protein and fiber, and are shown to be a good source of a variety of minerals. The idea to use the plant in agriculture and cultivation is a promising notion. 

Take a study from The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences as an example. A team in 2010 wondered if adding hemp seed cake into dairy cows’ diets would positively affect milk production and composition. Over a five month period, researchers gave 40 Swedish Red dairy cows varied amounts of hemp seed cake. At the study’s conclusion, results indicated overall increased nutritional value. Another study from the University of Manitoba in 2015 sought to feed hemp seed oil to hens and subsequently analyze differences in egg yolk composition. In the yolks, researchers found enrichment in the omega-3 fatty acid content.

As the world’s population continues to expand, so too does the need to constantly seek out more efficient and healthier alternatives, regardless of the industry. Hempseed as animal feed has a promising future.

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