"And Now for Something Completely Different"

The following commentary does not necessarily reflect the views of AgWeb or Farm Journal. The opinions expressed below are the author's own.

Remember that tagline from Monty Python’s Flying Circus? While we won’t achieve the level of “different” as Monty Python, our entire editorial group at Farm Journal have, over the past few weeks, delved into a topic new to us and many of our readers: Cannabis.

Our editorial team has developed a comprehensive package of content focused on Cannabis and its potential across U.S. agriculture. The series, with a wealth of online and print content, covers opportunities and barriers for farmers growing hemp or marijuana, for livestock producers feeding Cannabis byproducts and for Bovine Veterinarian of course, potential applications of Cannabis products for cattle health and performance.

Products containing cannabidiol (CBD) have, within just the past few years, become available and seen wide use for treating chronic conditions in companion animals (and humans). The 2018 farm bill makes hemp production legal nationwide. It will take some time for markets to develop and for farmers to adjust to demand signals, but we’ll likely see availability of cannabis products and byproducts explode in coming years.

Limited research suggests cannabis products including CBD, and the better-known psychoactive cannabinoid THC, might help relieve stress in cattle, improve feed intake and benefit reproduction. But, as you all know, the regulatory standards and processes for drugs or supplements used in food animals differ considerably from those for dogs and cats. We’ll need numerous clinical trials to determine safety and efficacy of these substances before the FDA can approve their use in food animals. Then producers and veterinarians will need solid data demonstrating cost-effectiveness for any applications of cannabis products in cattle, whether for targeted treatments or for herd-wide performance enhancement.

In developing our Cannabis content, conversations with livestock producers and veterinarians, and a Farm Journal reader survey, suggest a high level of curiosity and cautious open-mindedness regarding the topic. In the upcoming March issue of Bovine Veterinarian, our panel of veterinary students and recent DVM graduates suggest similar attitudes – they want to see the evidence – but if cannabis products work and provide safe, cost-effective benefits, they’re open to using or recommending them.

In any case, society’s attitudes toward cannabis are evolving rapidly away from the traditional “stoner” imagery toward greater acceptance of legitimate medicinal uses. Naturally, some proponents express unrealistic optimism, believing CBD or THC can cure virtually anything. And some opponents still consider Cannabis an evil weed that will lead to nothing but ruin.

Reality probably rests somewhere between. If continued research demonstrates these products can provide improvements in animal well-being, health or performance, and if production brings prices to cost-effective levels, we could see emergence of a major new trend.

Consumers clearly favor use of more “natural” products in livestock production, and small improvements in production efficiency, health and welfare add up. Cannabis might, or might not, play a role in addressing those goals. So, please have a look at our cannabis coverage and let us know what you think. We’ll continue to monitor the issue and keep you informed.

For more on this topic, see these articles on BovineVetOnline:

Visit BovineVetOnline.com for ongoing overage of Cannabis in U.S. agriculture from the Farm Journal editorial team.