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Rancher Grows Sunn Hemp Forage
“My county was the capital of hemp production in Kentucky with 2 of the largest CBD processors in the country,” says cattleman Kevin Poole. “Before it all went bust, I thought I could feed the waste material to my cattle, but I found out that was illegal.”
Poole looked for a legal alternative and found sunn hemp. It doesn’t have the psychoactive components of hemp and can be grown and fed without regulation. It is also high in protein.
The crop has been grown successfully as far north as Massachusetts; however, even Kentucky is too far north for the plant to set seed. Poole found a seed supplier in Florida with a price close to that of sorghum sudangrass seed.
“I ordered 7,000 lbs. of seed and started planting it in the 2019 cropping year,” says Poole.
Poole found that it mixed well with sorghum sudangrass when chopped for silage. It bumped protein levels to 18 percent from 10 to 11 percent. He also had success incorporating it with cool season grasses. “When it turns 85 to 90, cool season grasses like fescue and orchard grass are done, and that is when the sunn hemp comes on like crazy,” says Poole. “I planted 20,000 lbs. of sunn hemp this year. It is an amazing plant, but it doesn’t like traffic. I seed it, cut it, roll it up and get the bales off the field ASAP.”
Poole seeds it into his cool season grasses at around 30 lbs. per acre. If he is chopping it, he will seed it closer to 40 to 50 lbs. per acre.
“The health impact on the cattle has been incredible,” says Poole, who grazes it and finishes calves on it. “I’m getting marbling to rival corn fed due to its high protein.”
After experimenting with it for the past 2 years, Poole set up Hemp Cattle Company this spring. He is now selling beef online and through local retailers as hemp fed. What he hasn’t been able to do is to attract local investors to the company. Too many local farmers were burned financially when the local hemp industry went bust.
“I want to bring back my community and hope to involve some of the producers who are struggling,” says Poole. “Hemp was supposed to be the answer here. Maybe sunn hemp will be. If I can get into some of the chains with hemp fed beef, perhaps I’ll be able to franchise out my system for growing sunn hemp and feeding it.”
Poole has a little over 200 cow calf units and hopes to expand. Currently he is direct marketing about half of his calves.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Hemp Cattle Co., 4052 Basin Springs Rd., Winchester, Ky. 40391 (ph 859 396-2930; kevin@hempcattlecompany.com; www.hempcattlecompany.com).

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2021 - Volume #45, Issue #5