Hemp as sheep feed project

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The new project will analyse hemp’s potential as sheep feed.
Camera IconThe new project will analyse hemp’s potential as sheep feed. Credit: Daniel Wilkins

The State Government is stepping into uncharted territory with a new research project to determine whether industrial hemp holds value as an alternative summer sheep feed.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development will lead the project, and work in collaboration with ChemCentre WA and Charles Stuart University.

The trials are planned for WA and New South Wales, and will examine the meat quality of sheep on a hemp diet.

Meat products supplied for human consumption in WA are not permitted to contain detectable levels of THC, with similar restrictions affecting the use of hemp as feed across Australia and a number of other countries.

The project aims to evaluate the potential value of industrial hemp as an alternative summer forage for ruminants in terms of feed value, animal performance and meat quality.

It will also assess the tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, transfer, storage and turnover in sheep meat.

By the end of the project, researchers hope to have discovered whether industrial hemp has potential as a summer forage and what feed guides are needed to make sure sheep fed hemp are free from unacceptable levels of substances, including THC.

WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan announced the project at the Australian Industrial Hemp Conference in Fremantle today.

She said interest was growing in the industrial hemp industry, due to the crop’s versatility for a range of end products spanning from food and oil, to textiles, paper, building materials and fuel.

“The hemp industry is growing fast in WA, with hemp licences doubling over the past two years. There are more than 70 commercial crops and seven hemp research plot trials this season, using 22 hemp varieties,” Ms MacTiernan said.

“Research, such as the new livestock trials announced today, is vital to help fill information gaps and give growers, processors and innovators the knowledge to take this industry to the next level.

“The McGowan Government has provided grants worth more than $400,000 to industry over the past 15 months to support hemp research, development and processing.”

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