K-State Webinar to Focus on the Future of Cattle Feeding

By: Katie Allen

MANHATTAN, Kan. – The history and future of Zilmax, formally known as zilpaterol hydrocholoride, and implications on the cattle feeding industry is the focus of an upcoming webinar that will be led by Chris Reinhardt, extension feedlot specialist for K-State Research and Extension. It will take place Oct. 29 at 10 a.m. and is open to the public.

Zilmax is a beta-agonist, or cattle feed supplement, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Feedlots have used it to improve the cattle’s natural ability to convert feed into more lean muscle.

“Beta-agonists increase the deposition of lean muscle on the carcass,” Reinhardt said. “They make cattle more efficient at converting grain to muscle. They also help the efficiency of converting an animal carcass into sellable meat.”

Although the product has been widely used in the United States for more than five years and is considered safe from a food safety perspective, major U.S. meat packer Tyson announced it would suspend buying cattle fed Zilmax on Sept. 6, 2013, due to an animal welfare concern. The concern involved questioning if the product affected the ambulatory ability, or movement, of cattle. Merck, the manufacturer of Zilmax, voluntarily suspended sales of the product to collect more data.

Reinhardt said there has been no direct link between the use of Zilmax and cattle mobility, as many things, including hot summer weather, can affect animals’ ability to move. He said pulling the product has simply allowed for more investigation to see if it played a role.

Food safety with the use of Zilmax, Reinhardt said, has never been a concern.

“This was a concern at the packer level to try and get their head around what may or may not have been occurring,” he said.

While Zilmax sales have been temporarily suspended for the investigation, Reinhardt said many feedlots have switched to a competing beta-agonist called Optaflexx, or ractopamine, which is manufactured by Elanco.

“The transition from one product to another I don’t think was a huge challenge for anyone involved,” Reinhardt said. “The products do work differently. To paint both of the products with the same brush and call them beta-agonists is accurate, but they are different compounds. They are even different sub-classes of compound within the broader category of beta-agonists.”

Reinhardt plans to address the complex nature of beta-agonists and also what he sees in the future of cattle feeding.

“My crystal ball is not better than anyone else’s,” Reinhardt said. “But, I hope the future will be determined by good, sound scientific principles where we can drill in and figure out what the risks are, what they are not and move forward.”

There is no need to register for the webinar. The webinar site is http://connect.ksre.ksu.edu/asi. Make sure your Adobe Connect add-ins are up to date, and enter as a guest.

To watch the interview with Reinhardt, go to the K-State Research and Extension YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLQbhGgaXrc&feature=share&list=PLAD45744D5128C8EB).

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