A study found that when dairy cows ate food with industrial hemp in it, their bodies and behaviours changed. For example, they yawned more, salivated more, and moved around less steadily.
The results of the study, which were published in the journal Nature Food, could have effects on human health as industrial hemp products become more popular, but more research is needed to figure out the risks.
Industrial hemp is a type of cannabis plant that is grown for many different things. It is used to make clothes, paper, cosmetics, food, biofuel, biodegradable plastics, building materials, food, and feed for animals.
Hemp, which comes from Central Asia and spread to the Mediterranean and other parts of the world, is one of the plants that grows the fastest. People have been growing it for thousands of years.
Hemp is the same kind of plant as Cannabis sativa, which is used to make the drugs marijuana and hashish. But hemp has a lot less of the psychoactive cannabinoid delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is what makes you feel “high” when you smoke weed.
Hemp also has other cannabinoids, which are a group of chemicals found in the cannabis plant. One of these is cannabidiol (CBD), which is not psychoactive like THC but can have some medical effects.
In the United States, hemp is any Cannabis sativa plant that has less than 0.3% THC. Most products made from hemp that are meant to be eaten don’t have enough THC to give you the “high” that is usually associated with marijuana.
The industrial hemp industry is growing quickly, and in the past few years, many products, like animal feed, have been made from hemp. As part of the 2018 Farm Bill, the U.S. government made it legal for hemp to be grown as an agricultural product and took it off the list of controlled substances.
One cow and one marijuana plant
A cow and a cannabis plant are shown in stock photos. In the past few years, a number of products made from hemp have come out, including animal feed. iStock
Even though the bill made it legal to grow hemp, the Food and Drug Administration has not yet given hemp ingredients the green light for use in pet or livestock animal feed in the United States. But a few states let people feed hemp to animals, and people are interested in making products like these.
Cannabinoids are a group of chemicals that interact with the endocannabinoid system in both animals and humans. Not all cannabinoids make you feel high, but the growing number of hemp products raises safety concerns.
Some veterinary, feed industry, and animal safety groups, like the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), have warned against giving animals hemp products until research shows that they are safe.
In February, the AAFCO, AVMA, and a few other organisations wrote a letter to agriculture leaders and state policymakers saying, “It is our position that enough scientific research must be done to support the safety and usefulness of hemp in animal feed before any federal or state approval.” This was in response to a question about whether or not hemp is safe to use in animal feed.
These groups say that more research is needed to find out if hemp ingredients are safe for animals to eat often and for long periods of time. It’s not clear if the cannabinoids in industrial hemp can be transferred from animal feed to the products that come from the animals, like meat, milk, or eggs, or if this could be bad for human health.
Since there is a lot of interest in making animal feed from industrial hemp, a group of German researchers decided to look into the issue by doing a study on dairy cows.
The researchers looked at what happened when they fed 10 dairy cows feed that included industrial hemp. In the experiment, they used two different kinds of hemp. Both of them had less than 0.2% THC, which is below the legal limit in the European Union. However, one of the varieties had a much higher concentration of cannabinoids overall.
The scientists then looked at the cows’ milk, blood, and poop, as well as other parts of their bodies and how they behaved.
The team found that giving up to 0.92 kilogrammes of industrial hemp with a very low concentration of cannabinoids per animal per day had no noticeable effect on the health of the livestock.
In a study, dairy cows were fed hemp.
The dairy cows that the German study on hemp feed was about. When the cows were fed a diet that included industrial hemp, they changed in both how they acted and how they looked. Risk assessment is done by the German Federal Institute
But the results showed that the cows’ behaviour and bodies changed when they ate 0.84 or 1.68 kilogrammes of a type of industrial hemp that is high in cannabinoids. Some of these effects were more yawning, more salivation, shaky movements, secretions from the nose, a lot of tongue play, and reddening of the nictitating membrane, which is a transparent third eyelid that some animals have.
Robert Pieper, one of the study’s authors and a researcher at Berlin’s German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, told Newsweek, “We saw significant changes in respiratory and heart rate, as well as a decrease in feed intake and milk yield.”
On the second day after the animals were exposed to the cannabinoid-rich industrial hemp, the researchers saw changes in how much they ate and how much milk they made. All of the changes that were seen went away after two days without hemp food.
Analysis of the milk the cows made showed that THC and other cannabinoids from the hemp had been transferred to the milk.
The researchers also found that this transfer happened to such a degree that the amount of THC in the milk reached levels that, if consumed by humans, could be higher than the acute reference dose in some groups. The acute reference dose is an estimate of how much of a substance can be taken in over the course of 24 hours without posing any clear health risks.
“Higher intake levels are not wanted because they could have bad effects,” Pieper said. “These levels of exposure may have an effect on the central nervous system, such as causing more drowsiness, making it harder to remember things, and changing your mood.”
Pieper said that the effects the cows felt “were most likely caused by the high amounts of cannabinoids in the ration that came from industrial hemp.” But the authors say that the effects can’t be linked to a single cannabinoid or a certain mix of substances in the hemp.
According to the study’s authors, the results show that feeding dairy cows realistic amounts of industrial hemp, even if it has less than 0.2 percent THC, changes their physiology and behavior. It could also increase the amount of THC in the milk, which could be dangerous for some people. But the scientists said they need to do more research to figure out what effects these cannabinoids have.
“The purpose of the scientific study was to find out how much a transition to cow’s milk can happen when industrial hemp is fed,” Pieper said. “The study doesn’t give us enough information to say whether or not drinking milk on the market is bad for your health.”