Pubdate: Thu, 24 Aug 2000
Source: Western Producer (CN SN)
Copyright: 2000 The Western Producer
Contact:  Box 2500, Saskatoon, SK, Canada S7K 2C4
Fax: (306) 934-2401
Author: Barbara Duckworth


CONSORT, Alta. -- When Health Canada officials told Curtis Weekes they
needed a sample of the end product of hemp silage, he was tempted to send

"Then somebody realized what that was (cattle manure) and told me it was not
necessary," said the Alberta Agriculture crop specialist.

That incident was an example of the legal requirements Alberta researchers
encountered when they applied to grow hemp for a silage project.

A special research licence was obtained to grow low THC hemp and all traces
of the plant were destroyed after the study.

"We had to pay for a drug test," said Weekes during a field day near Consort
where the hemp was grown.

Tests showed it was well below the legal limit for THC, the hallucinogen
found in greater abundance in marijuana, a cousin of hemp.

Alberta's Special Areas consist of five million acres of shortgrass prairie
in southeast-central Alberta and have been administered by a provincially
appointed board since 1938. Farmers there thought the leafy, fast-growing
hemp could work if conditions were right. Barley leaf diseases are becoming
a greater problem so farmers have been experimenting in recent years with
crop alternatives.

When researchers scanned previous studies for comparative purposes, they
discovered hemp silage had never been tried. Some people have fed hemp seed
and stalks after the fibre was removed, but no one had attempted a silage

Results from the summer of 1999 were promising.

The project was carried out at Ron Letniak's farm near Consort.

Last year's trial was successful because the right amounts of rain fell.
This year the project has been a failure. Neither the hemp nor the control
crop of barley grew because of drought in southeastern Alberta.

In 1999, 10 acres of hemp were grown next to 10 acres of barley and oat
silage as a control.

Harvest dilemma

Researchers were not sure when to cut the hemp and opted for the early
flowering stage.

It was a challenge to cut the silage and put it through the auger because
the stems got tangled. Some stems were no bigger than a man's little finger,
while others were as big as a wrist.

The crops were fed to two groups of heifers. Health Canada did not want
animals destined for slaughter used in the trial.

The cattle liked both feeds, and weight gains were equal.

"There was absolutely no difference," said Weekes.

However, researchers did notice that cattle licked the hemp feed bunk clean
while some barley silage was always left over.

Hemp proved to be high in protein at 19 percent, high in energy and had good
dry matter production. Acid detergent fibre was much higher than barley-oat
silage at nearly 41 percent compared to 28.2 percent. ADF is the
indigestible part of the plant. Calcium and phosphorus were also higher in

Further trials and research data are required to gain a licence to grow hemp
for feed.
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