Horse owners have many options when it comes to bedding in the stalls of their horses. When choosing a bedding one may consider cost, what is readily available in a particular area, whether the bedding will greatly increase the dust particles in the environment, etc.
A healthy horse has a unobstructed and well functioning respiratory system. Equines use their noses to clear irritants from their respiratory tract (dust, ammonia and bacteria). Nasal discharge, coughing and sneezing are signs a horse may be suffering with respiratory issues. Dust, bacteria, mold and ammonia levels can irritate the horse’s respiratory tract and cause breathing difficulties and bedding is a major source of this irritant.
Hemp horse bedding is extremely low in dust, hemp hurd is cleaned to remove harmful particulates that cause respiratory issues. This is critical to limiting respiratory and other health risks. Hemp has no phenols and isn’t palatable to horses, further increasing its health benefits.
There are numerous businesses in Virginia that are utilizing hemp. For example, Old Dominion Hemp out of Charlottesville has to import hemp from Europe for its animal bedding business. Old Dominion Hemp owner Marty Phipps said if he were able to get hemp locally, it would not only help his business, but provide more business opportunities in the Commonwealth.
In North America, 80,000 acres of hemp are grown — only 10,000 of that is in the U.S. Compare that to 190,000 million acres of corn and soybeans, Phipps said.
“This is an industry in its infancy,” Phipps said. “Every single part of this provides a revenue path — biofuels, energy, food, clothing.”
Only time will tell, which is why the research portion is valuable. Jason Amatucci, founder of the Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition, thinks it will take time for the industry to catch on, but things are at a standstill until legislation changes.
RICHMOND — Marty Phipps started a business this year selling an innovative type of bedding for horses and small animals — a shredded substance that absorbs liquids, resists microbes and cuts down on smell.
But because the product is made with hemp, which is the same plant species as marijuana and is tightly controlled by the government, Phipps has to import it from Europe. He figures his costs are double what they would be if hemp were an ordinary crop grown locally.
Virginia has joined a nationwide movement to change that equation. This year, for the first time in about 70 years, a group of Virginia farmers harvested a small crop of hemp. It was permitted strictly for research, but a growing chorus — including politicians on the left and right — is pushing to cash in on a versatile crop that can be put to thousands of commercial uses and bring back lost jobs.
“It’s pretty ridiculous, actually,” that it’s taken this long, said Del. Joseph R. Yost, a Republican from Blacksburg who sponsored a bill in last year’s General Assembly to set up the hemp research program. “I represent a rural area in the southwest, and it’s viewed as possibly something that could help replace the tobacco industry and manufacturing industry.”
As a horse owner, one of the most tedious jobs is cleaning out the stable. In a matter of hours, the stable can reek from the straw bedding that’s used as the horses’ home (and bathroom). For the owners and their animals, this is not just a matter of “bad smell”. If the cleaning isn’t done diligently, these odors and the resulting dust could expose them to ammonia and other respiratory issues.
If you’ve ever owned a pet hamster, you can relate to this as well. You set up the hamster’s home by laying down wood chips or straws, only to find out how quickly it turns nasty. It was probably one of the more annoying parts of owning and taking care of one.
Animal bedding is needed for a wide range of animals, ranging from horses, chickens, to even snakes. Traditionally, pine and straw have been the popular materials used for these beddings. But a startup is now offering a superior alternative.
Old Dominion Hemp, an hemp bedding startup based out of Virginia, is looking to improve the quality of bedding materials by using hemp. Simply put, hemp offers a much more absorbent, longer lasting, and more sustainable bedding than straw or pine.
Hi Marty. Excited to learn more about Old Dominion Hemp! Could you tell us a bit about the company? What do you guys do and where are you based out of?
Marty Phipps: Old Dominion Hemp specializes in hemp bedding for equine (horse) and small animals. We started the company with the goal to show the public, specifically farmers, that industrial hemp has many agricultural uses. Our company was founded in Charlottesville, Virginia, where we’re located less than 5 miles from the home of Thomas Jefferson – who we like to call the Founding Father of Hemp.
We now serve customers nationwide. Recently, we’ve gotten a lot of interest from states such as Minnesota, Indiana, Colorado, and we’re even looking to send a package over to Alaska.
Specifically, what animals require this type of bedding?
MP: We currently serve animals such as horses, chickens, lambs, ducks, peacocks, mice, cats, snakes. Any animal that requires bedding will benefit from this material.
Using hemp as animal bedding is a novel application for many of us. Could you tell us a bit more of what advantages hemp brings as a bedding material?
MP: The benefits of hemp bedding are seemingly endless. Hemp is extremely absorbent as it can hold 4X its own weight, and lasts much longer than pine or straw bedding. Hemp bedding is very low dust, which is great for horses with respiratory issues. It also reduces odor better than straw or wood shavings. This is great for chicken owners, who often incur ammonia from the chicken scat. Hemp bedding is very economical for the farmers, as it lasts longer and reduces the products loss to waste. This, in turn, saves the consumer money. Lastly, hemp bedding is completely biodegradable, where as, pine can have a high acidity and “burn” fields, Hemp naturally decomposes into the earth. Our clients are actually mixing their hemp manure with seed and returning it to their fields.
Hemp production will be legal in July in Virginia, although contradictory with federal laws
Some hemp enthusiasts, however, have found avenues around current legislation. Marty Phipps sells hemp in the form of bedding for horses, chickens, ducks, lambs and goats. He started his business, Old Dominion Hemp, in 2015 after working as an advocate for the Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition.
Phipps legally imports his hemp from Holland before converting it into bedding. He said it produces a longer lasting and more eco-friendly product than traditional pine bedding. While he said he is curious about the idea of growing his own hemp, he’s not planning on seeing seeds anytime soon and thinks he won’t be the only one without.
The seeds, he said, will need to be licensed before farmers can buy them. This licensure would need to occur at the federal level.
To Phipps, hemp could be something of a saving grace for Virginia agriculture. For one, it would be another commodity farmers can plant and sell to make a living. He said its potential is so high that other countries are proving to be sluggish in sending over seeds for farmers.
“The U.S. is going to pass this law and hemp is going to move its way into the market,” he said. “It’s going to make a dent. Other countries realize this so they’re hesitant in presenting us a seed so we don’t destroy their hemp export market.”
Along with fiscal help, Phipps said the plant has considerable environmental potential as well. He said growing it is good for the soil, it’s a tough enough plant that it won’t require the same pesticides that cotton does, and it can be used as a bedding to repurpose animal waste into manure, which a typical pine bedding cannot do because of its acidity.