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Friday, October 7, 2022

Converting CBD by-products into livestock feed

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Liam Moriarty: Hey Jess, welcome back… Explain that to me; Exactly what do these scientists do?

Jess Burns: Well, these Oregon researchers are taking a cannabis by-product – they call it “spent hemp biomass” – and seeing if it’s appropriate to use as animal feed. This by-product is left after hemp is processed to make CBD oil. I thought of it kind of like grain puree left over after brewing beer or liquor, except it’s just a bunch of leaves and stems of the cannabis plant. One of the co-researchers, Serkan Ate’s, told me what these cannabis treatments face.

Ates: Currently, all processed cannabis – hemp biomass – no one knows what to do with this substance.

JB: So, if you can sell it as animal feed, you can actually make some money off something that would otherwise be a waste.

LM: That’s interesting. So, how do scientists know if these things are good for animals?

JB: They have conducted feeding experiments with sheep and dairy cows so far. And what they’re doing in these experiments is they’ve replaced the alfalfa plant with the hemp consumed in their feed, in different amounts and different amounts of times. And while they’re doing that, they keep track of how much animals eat, how much they weigh, you know, how much weight they gain and a whole host of other health metrics. Then they also test whether any cannabinoids, such as THC, can be detected in the animal’s systems during and after cannabis, supplemental feed.

LM: Well, what did they find?

JB: Well, nutritional hemp is as good or better than alfalfa. The initial data of the sheep is that at first they do not like it. Like, sheep don’t eat much when hemp is added and they think it might be because of the smell or flavour. But after about four weeks, those sheep seem to get really good taste and end up eating more feed each day and gaining a little weight. The cows ate less hemp feed, but then produced more milk, but this milk also had a lower energy content. So it’s kind of a mixed early result on the dairy side of things. But Attis told me that hemp doesn’t have to be better than alfalfa. It just has to perform similarly to be a suitable replacement, right? And at least for the sheep, it seems that it would be a good option.

LM: Why is there so much focus on finding new markets for cannabis right now?

JB: Well, we saw what happened firsthand in southern Oregon in 2018. The United States has completely legalized cannabis production. And then there was this big rush to cash in on the money in Oregon. In that first year, over 60,000 balls were licensed with the state. And a lot of those acres were in Rogue Valley and in Jackson and Josephine counties but after that, the market was flooded with product almost immediately. This year, the total number of acres licensed with the state, by comparison, was 7,000 acres. So over 60,000 to 7,000 acres. So, that’s a huge drop. The idea is that opening a market for animal feed can help bring some stability to the industry.

LM: So, when will this hemp animal feed come to market? When will farmers be able to start using these things?

JB: Yes, not anytime real soon. We still have a long way to go and the main issue is that it is technically illegal to feed them to animals intended for human consumption. The scrub is the cannabis you talked about earlier? The Food and Drug Administration is concerned that THC will pass from animals to humans and that the Food and Drug Administration has not set acceptable limits for THC consumption. Therefore, researchers discovered hemp in lambs and in milk. Therefore, until the FDA provides guidance or cannabis breeders can figure out how to reproduce THC entirely from cannabis plants, the market for cannabis animal feed, at least in the United States, will remain closed.

TheNS: Well, thanks Jess. we appreciate that.

JB: Thank you, Liam.

LM: I’ve been talking with Jes Burns, science reporter for the OPB. I’m Liam Moriarty



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