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Hemp as Food for Farm Animals


Hemp is popular for its medicinal and therapeutic value in products like: oils, smoke blends, topicals, supplements, and so much more. Hemp and CBD are known to be infused in foods like: beverages, candy, smoothies, and coffee’s to name a few. Hemp is so versatile and diverse that it can also be food. 

The plant itself, from seed to stalk, to leaves, to flower can be food for any mammal with an endocannabinoid system. Hemp seeds contain a protein that is more nutritious and more economical to produce than soybean protein. The complete protein and the oils contained in hemp seeds are in ideal ratios for human and animal nutrition. 

Photo Credit: Ranchera Familia/ The Botanical Joint

Hemp’s Nutritional Value

Hemp seed protein can be used to produce many products made from soybean: tofu, veggie burgers, butter, cheese, salad oils, ice cream, milk, etc. The USDA National Nutrient Database, reports the following as related to the the nutritional value of hemp seeds (a 2 tablespoon serving weighing 20 grams):

Hemp Can be Food for Animals

Hemp to feed animals like goats and cows is a practice used by farmers. For example, The Botanical Joint hemp farm, where the owners also have a small goat farm. The goats are fed hemp for food and also help with weed control. In a research studies focused on hemp for cattle feed, conducted by Kansas State University, it was reported that:

While varieties of hemp may be planted for a single or dual purpose, such as for seed and fiber, byproducts consisting of leaves, fodder and residual plant fibers remain after harvest. These byproducts could serve as potential feedstuffs for animals. Because these are predominantly cellulose-containing plant materials, the ideal species for utilizing these feeds are ruminant animals, specifically cattle”.

As for the parts of the hemp plant that are safe to feed animals, the same research studies referenced above report:

Ruminant animals like cattle and sheep can readily digest hemp’s high-cellulose plant material, breaking down hemp in their rumen and converting it into different nutrients. However, he added, the nutritional benefits of hemp feed depend on what part of the plant is being given to the livestock. “Flowers and seed and the chaff, those have pretty decent crude protein in them,” he noted. “There’s a 20% range of crude protein [in some hemp parts], same as alfalfa. That’s attractive for beef cattle. Other parts are negligible, like the stalk that’s full of fiber.”

In Closing

Research is supporting hemp for food, but the collective view is that more research is needed, especially as it relates to cannabinoids, their potency, and impact on animals. 

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