An annual forage crop studied by University of Missouri Extension researchers the past six years has shown promise for improving cattle nutrition. Sunn hemp provides additional protein for grass-fed cattle while increasing their rate of gain. Agronomy specialist Valerie Tate notes that while it’s from the same genus of plants considered an invasive species, sunn hemp doesn’t live long enough in Northern Missouri to produce seeds.

That’s also fortunate for cattle, as sunn hemp’s seeds have high concentrations of a toxic alkaloid that could damage the liver. Tate adds that the plant, which is actually a legume and not hemp, would need to be seeded annually in an established rotational grazing field.

Research on sunn hemp was conducted by plant physiologist Harley Naumann at the University of Missouri’s Forage Systems Research Center outside Linneus.