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Hemp is the not-so-secret ingredient in farmer’s cow feed

Posted on May 13, 2004

Editors note: I had the chance to meet David Wise of Hemp Fed Beef Company at a North American Industrial Hemp Council meeting. David explained to me the role that hemp played in his cattle feed. Hemp acts as a nutritional uptake catalyst which enables the cattle to gain lean muscle mass. As a cautionary note, David warned that feeding cattle too much hemp would cause them to “have the runs.” This can serve as good advise for any cattle rancher who decides to make his / her own ”home brew” hemp-fortified cattle feed.

Seven years ago, David Wise created his own special recipe for cow feed.

It consists of 400 pounds of soybean meal, 200 pounds of distiller’s grain and the key ingredient — 100 pounds of hemp.

Yes, hemp.

The high protein mixture, which contains 34 percent protein and essential fatty acids, has made his cattle healthier, happier and heftier, according to Wise.

So far, he’s had no complaints from his four-legged consumers.

“It’s really working,” Wise said.

The only complaint Wise has is that he can’t grow his own hemp to feed the animals.

For now, he has to get his hemp supply from Canada.

“I can grow my own soybeans, I can grow my own corn,” Wise said. “If I had the hemp, I would have it all in one sock.”

Recently, his friend, Craig Lee, who introduced him to the hemp feed, traveled to Canada to pick up 1,200 pounds of hemp that Wise had ordered. Wise paid $1.10 per pound for the hemp, which he wishes he could grow.

Since the 1950s, hemp has been illegal to grow in the United States. But, years ago, it was a very popular crop in Kentucky. In 1915, hemp was the state’s largest crop. Many factories used hemp to make twine, rope and cotton bagging. When World War II ended, the U.S. government canceled virtually all hemp farming permits.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, both hemp and marijuana have the psychoactive THC ingredient. Hemp remains strongly identified with marijuana but, according to Lee, who is also the director of the Hemp Fed Beef Company in Willisburg and the secretary/treasurer for Madison Hemp & Flax Company 1806, Inc. in Lexington, hemp is nothing like marijuana.

“What you have here is a lot of people with their heads stuck in the sand,” Lee said.

Hemp’s connection to marijuana has ruined opportunities for farmers, such as Wise, to grow the crops on their farms, he said.

Its uses are endless and its success with Wise’s cattle is one example of that, according to Lee.

“Because of the high oil content and the fatty acids, the animals actually utilize more of their feed, he said. “They digest more of it, which means the farmer is getting more out of his feed.”

Aside from hemp feed being high in protein and fatty acids, hemp-fed cattle are antibiotic, steroid and hormone free.

Hemp-fed cows taste better too, he said.

“It has a better flavor, a better taste,” Lee said.

According to Lee, Wise is probably the only farmer in the United States that feeds his cows hemp.

One reason for that is the hassle of having to buy it from Canada. But it goes deeper.

“They have been scared all of their life thinking that this is marijuana and it’s not,” Lee said. “There is a difference.”

Smoking marijuana will make the user intoxicated and smoking hemp will not, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service’s Administration’s National Clearinghouse for alcohol and drug information.

Hemp contains less than one percent of the active ingredient THC, the substance that gives marijuana smokers a high. Marijuana plants contain 10 to 20 percent THC.

Marijuana plants and hemp plants have different appearances and are harvested differently. Marijuana plants tend to be short and bushy while hemp plants can have stalks that are 25 feet high.

Currently, hemp is grown in Canada, China, Russia, Hungary, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Spain, England, Poland and many other eastern European countries.

It continues to be an illegal crop in the United States but that will eventually change, according to Lee.

“Maybe not in my lifetime but in our children’s lifetime,” he said.

Copyright © 2004, Lebanon Enterprise. All rights reserved.