Cactus Feeders CEO Calls for Thorough Review and Return of Zilmax to MarketWed, 21 Aug 2013 16:05:16 CDT
Beta agonists have proven to be revolutionary as a feed ingredient for cattle in this country. They improves feed efficiency resulting in higher-yielding carcasses. However, one of the two products approved for use, Zilmax, has been withdrawn from the market by its manufacturer, Merck, for further scientific review due to reports of lameness in some cattle going from feedlots to packing plants.
Dr. Mike Engler, president and CEO of Cactus Feeders, said his operation has worked with both Optiflex and Zilmax. He spoke with Radio Oklahoma Network's Ron Hays and said he hopes the issues with Zilmax are resolved quickly and the product is returned to the market.
"This is not new technology. The most recent of these products on the market, Zilmax, zilpateral, has been approved in the United States and we've been feeding it for six years. So, we have a lot of experience with these products.
"I would say that unintended consequences, we have to be careful of what we group into that particular category. Certainly if there's any animal welfare issues-and we see minimal issues in our feedyard-then that is a totally unintended consequence because no one who feeds cattle for a living wants animals to be lame or to die. We don't want any mortalities any more than we have today.
He said if producers are having problems, those problems need to be fixed and they may or may not be not be due to the use of a particular feed additive. He said if the lameness issues seen in a few instances are not due to beta agonists, it is very important to get the product back to the market so that feeders can use it.
"If you use a product such as a beta agonist, you are going to have a repartitioning from fat into lean. And saleable red meat yield is one of the hallmarks of these products. That's what makes them efficient. That's what makes them important when we're trying to feed people. We get more beef. Well, you can't have it both ways. So, you're going to have a hit on marbling. And the only way that you can control that is to feed the cattle longer and/or trying to improve your marbling genetics."
Engler says that cattle at his feed yard are sorted very carefully to be certain beta agonists are not used in overfinished cattle.
Sales of Zilmax have been suspended temporarily while Merck studies lameness in some finished cattle that have used the product. Engler said it is very important to conclude those studies as quickly as possible and return Zilmax to the market.
"Zilpaterol is remarkable. Studies show you get about 20 pounds of additional live weight gain, but you get over 30 pounds of additional carcass weight." Engler said the zilpaterol helps the animal divert a large part of the nutrition in its last 25 days on feed into lean muscle mass.
"There is a metabolic change with beta agonists that is significant and I would be the first one to admit that we need to know everything we need to know about that because there could be individual animal differences in that response that could be causing problems in somebody's feed yard. It could be creating additional management issues that we need to deal with.
"So, I don't think the book is closed on this. I would just say that as a technology that we've been using for years, we're very comfortable with it. We think that it can be used responsibly and it has a very efficacious place in our efforts to try and produce the most amount of beef with the least amount of resources to feed the most people at an affordable price."
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