Research at Kansas State University Discovers Destressing Benefit from Feeding Cattle Industrial Hemp

Manhattan, Ks — A new study by Kansas State University finds that feeding cattle industrial hemp may have a beneficial effect on their welfare: a reduction in stress and increasing the times when they lie down.

“Cattle experience a variety of stress and inflammation,” said Michael Kleinhenz, assistant professor of beef production medicine at the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine. “Our most recent data shows how cannabinoids via industrial hemp decreased the stress hormone cortisol as well as the inflammatory biomarker prostaglandin E2. This shows that hemp containing cannabidiolic acid, or CBDA, may decrease stress and inflammation in cattle. Thus, hemp may be a natural way to decrease stress and inflammation related to production practices such as transportation and weaning.”

Kleinhenz has published the results of his study, “Short term feeding of industrial hemp with a high cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) content increases lying behavior and reduces biomarkers of stress and inflammation in Holstein steers,” in Scientific Reports.

“Our new research helps us better understand how cannabinoids present in industrial hemp interact with bovine physiology and pharmacology,” Kleinhenz said. “For instance, we now know that repeated daily doses of CBDA via feeding hemp does not result in accumulation of cannabinoids in the blood. Additionally, it solidified previous research and shows that each cannabinoid has its own absorption and elimination profile.”

Another benefit observed when feeding cattle industrial hemp is that they lie down more, which can help them ruminate and produce saliva.

Kleinhenz, who is in the college’s clinical sciences department, worked with a multidisciplinary team. Researchers on the project included graduate students Mikaela Weeder, Shawnee Montgomery, Miriam Martin and Andrew Curtis; and anatomy and physiology department faculty members Geraldine Magnin, Hans Coetzee, Jason Griffin and Zhoumeng Lin; K-State Research and Extension’s John C. Pair Horticulture Center in Haysville; and the environmental and global health department at the University of Florida. Each brought expertise in pharmacology, toxicology and plant biology.

“If hemp is to be utilized as an ingredient in the ration of cattle, it is prudent to know and understand the pharmacokinetics and potential biological effects of cattle exposed to repeated doses of cannabinoids present in industrial hemp,” Kleinhenz said. “The initial data we have collected is essential should industrial hemp and its by-products are to be considered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Association of American Feed Control Officials. Further work is needed to determine if cannabinoids can alter the stress response in cattle during stressful times such as transportation and weaning, but we hope this research is a step forward in the right direction.”

Funding for this work was provided by a grant from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.