Page last updated at 14:02 GMT, Wednesday, 20 July 2005 15:02 UK

Farmers low at hemp ban for cows

By Alan Little
BBC News, Liechtenstein

Cows eating hemp
Calm cows have higher milk yields, say hemp farmers
Liechtenstein milk farmers have been stirred up by a government ban on their feeding hemp to their cattle.

They are the most chilled-out, laid-back, carefree cattle in the world, and happy cows produce better milk.

What is it that keeps the cash cows calm? Hemp, which is related to cannabis. And that's why Liechtenstein has banned its use.

This has in turn enraged the country's dairy farmers, who say that the hemp relaxes those jangly bovine nerves.

Hemp farmers are less then mellow about the new law.

"Hemp is good for cows because it is serves as a very small tranquiliser," says hemp farmer Jean-Pierre Egger.

"Many of the cows are stressed nowadays. If they eat hemp, they calm down. Now, a milk cow which is calm produces better milk. That is a fact."

No high

In neighbouring Switzerland, hemp is grown legally for industrial purposes but farmers are also banned from feeding it to cattle.

The authorities there say the trouble is that a chemical called THC - the chemical that helps give the "high" associated with cannabis use - can get into the milk.

The only thing which gets high is the quality of milk and the quality and general health of the cow
Jean-Pierre Egger
Hemp farmer

Peter Malin, of the Liechtenstein Department of Agriculture, has similar concerns.

"We don't want to have to contaminants such as THC which doesn't occur naturally in milk," he said. "And we don't want it to be consumed by people, especially by children."

But farmers say this European hemp has none of the narcotic properties found in its Indian cousin.

The cattle here may be relaxed, but they are not stoned.

"The only thing which gets high is the quality of milk and the quality and general health of the cow. That's how high the cows are feeling," says Mr Egger.

But there are some other dairy-cow farmers who are sceptical about the milk-yield benefits of hemp. They welcome the ban.

Dairy farmer Simon Schiprscher says he never feeds his cows hemp.

"I thought the people that did were a bit exotic and alternative," he said.

So consumers of Swiss chocolate and Gruyere cheese can, well, relax.

For the cows who will have to change their diet though, life is about to become a little less laid back.

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