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Researchers have tested the health benefits marijuana and hemp have on humans in myriad ways. But, for a recent study, the test subjects were 16 male Holstein cattle.
Why? Researchers from Kansas State University wanted to know how cannabinoids in hemp impacted the cattle’s activity, blood inflammatory, and stress biomarkers.
They measured the blood plasma concentrations of cannabinoids after the steers ate industrial hemp, a non-psychoactive cannabis plant. Hemp contains CBD, the naturally occurring chemical in hemp that is already widely used by people to reduce stress and enhance wellbeing.
Making steers less stressed
The researchers separated the Holsteins into two groups of eight. The hemp group of cattle ate 25 grams of industrial hemp mixed into 200 grams of grain each day for 14 days.
For those two weeks, the researchers monitored the cattle’s behavior and also collected blood samples. Analysis of those samples showed a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol and 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,” Michael Kleinhenz, assistant professor of beef production medicine at the Kansas State College of Veterinary Medicine, said in a news release about the research.
They also observed that the cattle in the hemp group tended to lie down more than those in the control group. Doing so can help them ruminate, a process during which food particles are broken down into smaller pieces, and produce saliva. Both are good for a steer’s overall health.
How cannabis interacts with cattle’s bodies
The researchers wrote that more study is needed on how cannabis impacts stress and inflammation during times of stress (such as during transportation). But the study took the first step in determining how cannabis might become useful for the cattle industry, which includes almost 92 million head of cattle nationwide.
Kleinhenz said the study shows that repeated doses of hemp through feeding “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.”
“Further work is needed to determine if cannabinoids can alter the stress response in cattle during stressful times such as transportation and weaning,” he said, “but we hope this research is a step forward in the right direction.”