March 7, 2022
Feeding cattle high-CBD industrial hemp can help reduce stress and potentially boost health, according to a new study published in Scientific Reports.
Ranchers know cattle experience the most stress when they are weaned from their mothers or packed into close quarters during transport. Animals under stress are far more likely to develop respiratory infections or other ailments at additional cost. This new study suggests stress in cattle can be mitigated by adding a hemp biomass to the diet.
Humans, cattle and all animals in the animal kingdom except insects have something called an ECS where cannabinoid and cannabinoid like molecules such as CBD are active. Hundreds of clinical research studies have firmly established the stress-reducing effects of CBD in humans through the ECS. And while there are various animal veterinarian studies on cannabinoids, such as canines and donkeys, there is little research about CBD and cattle specifically.
Since 2020, a team from Kansas University College of Veterinary Medicine, funded in part by a $200,000 grant from the US Department of Agriculture have been investigating if hemp-based CBD would reduce stress in cattle.
How the cattle were tested
The team used 16 holstein steers, dividing them into two groups of eight steers each. Over two weeks, one group was fed regular feed, and the other group was fed a measured daily dose of hemp biomass, consisting of 5.5 mg of cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) per kilogram of the steer’s body weight.
The researchers observed the steers behavior and took blood samples at regular intervals and analyzed for levels of cortisol and prostaglandins that are common biomarkers that indicate levels of stress.
As predicted by the researchers, the group of steers that were fed CBDA showed lower levels of these biomarkers, suggesting the steers had less stress than the other group. The hemp-eating steers also spent more time lying down than the control group, providing some confirmation to the hypothesis that CBD reduced symptoms of stress.
Putting CBD biomass to better use
The CBD oils we see in stores are made by stripping the flowers and leaves from the hemp plant and typically disposing of the remaining biomass. As cattle are fully able to digest hemp biomass stems and stalks, the study suggests using hemp leftovers as cattle feed could reduce plant waste while helping livestock become healthier and more relaxed.
Interestingly, the researchers also discovered cannabinoids eaten by the steer were fully absorbed and did not accumulate in the animals’ systems.
Mike Kleinhenz, professor of beef production medicine at Kansas University College of Veterinary Medicine and leader of the team said ‘We’re just starting to scratch the surface on some of the benefits of CBD in livestock, and we might have found one more natural way to reduce stress in cattle and help a better use of hemp biomass similar to cow recycling in ethanol production that recycles grain biomass as cattle feed.’
Further tests planned
Quite importantly, this study suggests these concerns may be unwarranted, but the team intends to conduct additional research. Kleinhenz explained ‘This is kind of an exploratory study that yielded some really interesting results. We want to understand the whole timeline from when an animal last consumes hemp compounds to when it can safely enter the food chain, and not have those compounds in the system.’
National Library of Medicine: Federally funded study results show that a diet of hemp reduces stress in cows
National Library of Medicine: Applying CBD Topically Can Help Facial Stress and Jaw Pain
The American Journal of Psychiatry: CBD Curbs Stress Related to Opioid Cravings
The Journal of Immunology: CBD Helps Increase Mobility in Dogs and Treat Osteoarthritis