Source: Lexington Herald-Leader (KY) 
Pubdate: Sat, 04 Jul 1998
Author: Janet Patton, Herald-Leader Business Writer


Animal bedding is an example of a market for a hemp product that Kentucky
might have a unique advantage in, according to the Economic Impact of
Industrial Hemp in Kentucky, which was released yesterday.

Hemp hurds, from the woody, pulpy middle of the stalk, are often just a
byproduct of processing the plant. When the hemp fibers are removed from
the plant, 68 percent of the plant -- the hurd -- is left.

In England and France, which together grow more than 35,000 acres of hemp,
hurds are primarily used for animal bedding.

Because of Central Kentucky's proximity to the thoroughbred horse industry,
hemp grown and processed here would have a ready-made market, the study

"In talking with people in England who've done this for two to three years,
this is a premium product, one that's going to be used on more high-value
horses," said Steven Allen, co-author of the University of Kentucky study
with Mark Berger and Eric Thompson.

"And that's what we have here," added Berger.

Based on Jockey Club figures, Allen, Berger and Thompson estimate there are
77,000 thoroughbreds in Kentucky in any given year; 117,000 thoroughbreds
in Kentucky and surrounding states; and 640,000 thoroughbreds in the United

If 10 percent of these horses switched to the hemp bedding, with each
animal using 180 pounds a week, then each year there would be a yearly
market for 36,000 tons in Kentucky, 55,000 tons in Kentucky and adjoining
states, and 300,000 tons in the U.S.

It would take 12,000 acres of hemp just to satisfy the estimated demand for
the hurd in Kentucky, and 7,000 more acres for the adjoining states.
Because the bedding is bulky, shipping for long distances might erode the
price advantage.

Using American Horse Council figures, the authors estimate there are 4.4
million other registered horses in the United States. It would take an
additional 71,000 acres to make enough bedding if only 1 percent of the
horse owners switched to the hemp hurd bedding.

Wood chips and fine wheat straw, the main types of bedding now used, retail
for $180 to $240 a ton; hemp hurds could be processed for sale at very
competitive $30 a ton wholesale.

Hemp hurds are also more biodegradable than would chips or straw.

"It's much more absorbent, they say, and produces a better animal bedding,"
Allen said.

Copyright 1998 Lexington Herald-Leader
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Checked-by: Richard Lake