Alternative cropping approaches continue to be on the rise. Keily Stiff, president of Southern Hemp Strategies, and her team have taken an interesting approach to cattle feeding in Florida. After studying U.S. trends and knowing Florida’s strong agriculture ties, Stiff decided to investigate and coordinate a project researching the cultivation of hemp as a forage for cattle with interest in the effects on cattle and its potential impact on the cattle industry.
Hemp falls under the 2014 Farm Bill. There are currently 19 other states engaging in hemp research for its medicinal and agricultural purposes. Florida’s diverse environments and subtropical climate make it difficult to replicate research accurately from other participating states, because of the varieties being used and cultivation techniques being more adapted to the cooler northeastern climates. Stiff and her team want to bring the research to Florida and have proposed their project to the Florida Cattlemen’s Association through the Cattle Enhancement Board in order to secure funding to start research this coming year.
The question still remains: Why hemp? Florida’s large and highly involved agricultural community is always looking for the next big thing to come into the industry. With current legislation regarding hemp’s relative, Cannabis sativa, it is in the public eye nationally and on target with the audience. This interest in Cannabis and its products presents a unique marketing opportunity for both growers and cattle producers, with the potential for branded products like “Hemp-Fed Beef” and “Florida Certified Hemp Seed.” It can be used for a variety of commercially desirable items, such as textiles, paper, clothing, biofuel, and in this case, animal feed.
Hemp itself is naturally disease- and sun-resistant. Stiff’s team is looking to study its viability in areas such as conservation easements and make less desirable land for traditional methods of management more productive while maintaining its environmental friendliness.
Hemp is a nitrogen-fixing legume, which gives growers the opportunity to improve soil in terms of organic matter and can be used as a cover crop. From a cattle feeding standpoint, there may be concern about the levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but Stiff says true hemp contains less than 1 percent THC, much like the popular Kombucha drink, and has no psychological effects.
Stiff looks forward to further discovery and research on the potential utilization of this unique crop and has already secured a letter of intent for private funding that will nearly double the investment that has been applied for with the Cattle Enhancement Board. Be on the lookout for more information as the project develops throughout 2017.
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