Dairy cows fed industrial hemp produced milk with detectable levels of the buzz-inducing molecular compound THC, according to a new study from Germany that could influence the potential uses of hemp as an ingredient in animal feed. The dairy cows also showed behavioral changes -- yawning and salivating a lot, moving a little unsteadily on their hoofs, standing in one place for a protracted period, and having a "somnolent appearance." The Washington Post reports: The peer-reviewed study, conducted on Holstein cows in Berlin and published Monday in the journal Nature Food, is one of the first major investigations of the use of industrial hemp as a potential supplement in animal feed. For now, such use is illegal under U.S. law, which does not allow THC in the food chain. But the new research comes as hemp, which has many industrial uses, continues to emerge from an agricultural exile that dates to the "reefer madness" hysteria of the 1930s. [...]
The researchers at the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment found no behavioral change in cows given the entire hemp plant, which contained very low levels of THC. Only when fed solely the portions of the hemp plant with higher THC concentrations -- including the flowers and leaves -- did the behavioral effects appear, according to the study. Those effects included slower heart rate and respiration, "pronounced tongue play, increased yawning, salivation, nasal secretion formation," and reddening of a portion of the eyes, the report states. Some animals "displayed careful, occasionally unsteady gait, unusually long standing and abnormal posture." The animals also ate less and produced less milk, according to Robert Pieper, head of the department of food chain safety for the institute and co-author of the new paper. "That is a strong effect on animal health. Not a positive effect," he said. But he did not predict how it would play out in the policy world.