OCT 18, 2022 8:44 AM PDT

Study Finds Hemp Byproducts Are a Safe Food Source for Lambs

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Charron

An Oregon State University research team found that hemp byproducts are a safe food source for lambs. The study was recently published in the Journal of Animal Science

The researchers fed male lambs two different amounts of spent hemp biomass (10% and 20% of total feed). They then did not feed the lambs hemp biomass again for four weeks. After this withdrawal period, researchers assessed the lambs’ weight gain, carcass characteristics, meat quality, and overall health.

They found that spent hemp’s nutritional quality is similar to alfalfa, which is used to feed lambs. Spent hemp also presents lower palatability and better digestibility. Additionally, they found that feed intake was negatively affected by feeding 20% spent hemp biomass in the short term but not in the long term. Feeding 10% spent hemp biomass increased feed intake long-term with no observed weight gain. 

The researchers also found that spent hemp biomass did not negatively affect metabolism and improved the lambs’ antioxidant capacity. They did observe an increase in shrink and cook loss that potentially affects the tenderness. Spent hemp biomass did not affect other parameters related to carcass and meat quality.

Biomass does not currently have any value for hemp farmers, but it could be sold as livestock feed if approved by the Food and Drug Association. Associate professor and study author Dr. Serkan Ates explains, “The findings are important for both hemp farmers and livestock producers because they provide evidence that this byproduct of hemp can be used in livestock diets. If the Food and Drug Administration approves its use as an animal feedstuff, hemp farmers could have a market for what is essentially a waste product and livestock producers may be able to save money by supplementing their feed with the spent hemp biomass.” If the FDA approves biomass as suitable livestock feed, it will provide farmers a significant future economic benefit. 


Journal of Animal Science, Oregon State University


About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kerry Charron writes about medical cannabis research. She has experience working in a Florida cultivation center and has participated in advocacy efforts for medical cannabis.
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