Hemp’s diverse applications and how we speak about it, gives it an almost mythical quality.
As we look to the future and consider the environmental impacts of such industries as logging and farming in order to provide raw materials for everything from paper to fabric to food for both humans and animals, hemp provides a renewable, beneficial answer to many of the challenges we face.
One of these areas is the impacts of cattle on our range lands and the acreage used raising such crops as alfalfa and decimation of the rain forests all to raise enough cattle to meet the demand for beef, for instance. Between 1 1/2 and 2 acres is required to raise a pair of calves for 12 months. Globally, an estimated 23 percent of the planet’s ice-free land is used for grazing and 33 percent of croplands are used to raise needed feed for livestock. Additionally, seven percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions is produced by livestock. In the United States, the range debates in the West have gone on for years, often with beef and the need to graze them taking priority over other “predatory” animals such as coyote, mountain lions and wolves, frequently to the later’s detriment and without regard for their role in sustaining environmental balance.
We’re losing invaluable resources required for us to create medicines and basically causing irreversible harm to the earth’s lungs with every acre of rainforest that is cleared. Since we’re not all going vegan tomorrow, it may be advisable to find less impactful ways to sustain our steak, lamb chop and bacon habits. When we broaden the discussion about the role hemp could play in supporting livestock raising, we know the plant could play a positive role in the industry moving forward. Ironically, when hemp grew wild, it was a ready source of food for wildlife, eliminated to a high degree with the government’s banning of its production in the 1930s.
As is the case in so many areas, what was provided as a resource naturally to us, we let go. And now, what was once old is new again with science providing us with information supporting hemp’s reintroduction into the ecosystem. This time, it’s production is occurring in a controlled fashion, but nonetheless, it’s back! Hemp is well tolerated by cattle and other animals - goats, sheep, deer, elk, moose and so forth - classified as “ruminants” those that have multi-stage digestive systems. Pigs, which do not fit this category, as well as chickens, are also able to ingest hemp without issue. Whereas many mammals, including our sweet selves have a single-stage stomach, (such as pigs) ruminant animals’ stomachs include four chambers each with its own function - the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum. I considered expanding on the function of each, but suffice to say hemp is easily digestible due to its high cellulose content.
The benefits though do relate back to which parts of the hemp an animal is fed. Hemp seed, chaff and oil are a great sources of omega-3, fiber and protein, and could be easily used as a replacement for other feed additives, such as soy. Hemp stalks and leaves to a lesser degree, though are still usable especially when combined with the former. Some farmers don’t worry about the processing and just use the “unusable’ parts to feed their livestock as an environmentally sound way to feed their livestock while also eliminating the parts of their crop they are not sending to market. The key is to produce hemp feed on a scale that makes its pricing
Animals fed hemp tend to require fewer if any antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, meaning the food source for humans is less polluted with ingredients that don’t serve our overall health. Also, while hemp is used successfully in other parts of the world, in the United States there are still considerable government approvals and laws that need to be enacted before we see greater use and availability.
This is a field that warrants more study as anecdotal evidence is just a small part in making an overall decision and enacting legislation overseeing the market. So far, we’re heading in a positive direction.This will be an area that warrants watching as new studies are underway.