Nutrient digestibility, rumen parameters, and (cannabinoid) residues in sheep fed a pelleted diet containing green hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) biomass

Transl Anim Sci. 2022 Oct 26;6(4):txac141. doi: 10.1093/tas/txac141. eCollection 2022 Oct.

ABSTRACT

The feeding value for ruminants of green hemp biomass, from the low Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) variety of Cannabis sativa L., is unknown. Twelve Merino ewes were individually penned and randomly allocated on a stratified liveweight basis to one of two pelleted dietary treatments, control (0% hemp, n = 6) or hemp (42% green hemp biomass, n = 6) that delivered a diet meeting the nutrient requirements of the animals. The experimental period consisted of 17 d dietary and housing adaptation, followed by 7 d total urine and feces collection for determination of apparent nutrient digestibility. A ruminal fluid sample was collected on day 27 and assessed for pH, ammonia, volatile fatty acid (VFA), and cannabinoid concentrations. A blood sample from the jugular vein and incisional subcutaneous fat biopsy from an area around the base of the tail were collected on day 28 with additional fat biopsies taken 35 d and 140 d post-feeding to measure cannabinoids. The dry matter (DM), organic matter (OM), and crude protein (CP) digestibilities, along with total VFA concentration did not differ (P = 0.713) between the two diets; however, acid detergent fiber (ADF) and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) digestibilities (P < 0.001), water intake (P = 0.023), and fecal water output (P < 0.001) were significantly lower for the sheep-fed Hemp. Rumen pH did not vary (P = 0.256) between diets, but ruminal ammonia concentration was significantly lower (P = 0.024) for sheep consuming Hemp. Sheep-fed Hemp had significantly greater molar proportions of butyric (P = 0.039) and hexanoic (P = 0.012) acids and lower molar proportions of propionic acid (P = 0.003). There were no differences between diets for N intake (P = 0.175), fecal N output (P = 0.253), and N balance (P = 0.695), with all sheep in positive N balance; however, there was significantly lower (P = 0.001) urinary N output for sheep-fed Hemp. Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) were detected in plasma of all sheep-fed Hemp. ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol was present in the subcutaneous fat of four of the six sheep on the final day of being fed Hemp, and in all (six) sheep 35 d post-feeding and one sheep 140 d post-feeding Hemp. No cannabinoids were detected in the corresponding samples taken from the sheep-fed Control. Thus, despite green hemp biomass being nutritionally a suitable feed for ruminants, under current Food Standards in Australia, the presence of these cannabinoid residues restricts its use in ruminant diets.

PMID:36381952 | PMC:PMC9661295 | DOI:10.1093/tas/txac141

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