WUFT News

North Florida Cattlemen Cautious Amid Zilmax Weight Gain Drug Sale Suspension

By on September 3rd, 2013

Almost a month after sales of Merck & Co. Inc.’s major cattle weight gain drug Zilmax were suspended, Alachua County cattlemen and beef specialists are considering how the North Florida cattle industry will be affected.

Roger West, an Alachua County cattleman who cares for a herd of 300 cows, said the absence of Zilmax in feedlots would mean a minor decrease in total beef production. But if that beef shortage causes beef prices to go up, consumers may stray from Florida calves and the beef industry to move toward other alternatives.

The Florida cattle industry is largely responsible for supplying Midwest feedlots with calves, where they may be fed drugs to gain weight. These particular calves, which are part of Alachua County cattleman Dr. Roger West’s herd, will be shipped to Kentucky.

Elly Ayres / WUFT News

The Florida cattle industry is largely responsible for supplying Midwest feedlots with calves, where they may be fed drugs to gain weight. These particular calves, which are part of Alachua County cattleman Roger West’s herd, will be shipped to Kentucky.

“So that would affect us, and the price we receive for calves would go down,” West said. “Everything affects us, we just don’t know to what extent.”

The Florida cattle industry primarily supplies calves to feedlots in the Midwest, where cows are given feed and, in some cases, drugs like Zilmax or its less potent drug rival Optaflexx.

Zilmax is undergoing further testing to determine whether or not the drug causes immobility in cattle, as was suggested in a video released at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association meeting a few weeks ago in Denver.

After that meeting, Tyson Food Service announced it would no longer purchase Zilmax-fed cattle starting Friday.

“It is about animal well-being and ensuring the proper treatment of the livestock we depend on to operate,” Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. cattle procurement director John Gerber wrote in a letter to cattle feeders.

Owen Rae, professor and service chief in the large animal clinical sciences department at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, said the public’s reaction to possible Zilmax side effects and the suspension of the drug’s sales “may have been a bit of an overreaction.”

The supposed side effects in cattle could be caused by a number of natural occurrences, instead of just problems with the drug, Rae said.

“We’ve had some very unusual high temperatures, we’ve had drought, so a lot of changes in the kind of feed the animals are getting,” Rae said. “So that, in conjunction with the product being used, may very likely have been factors in seeing what’s being seen this year.”

Rae said he believes the Zilmax sale suspension wasn’t brought on by scientific study, but instead, it was decided out of concern for public relations.

Although only about 5 percent of Zilmax-fed cattle displayed tenderness of the feet and stiff-legged walking, there’s still a problem with the cattle well-being, West said.

“We’ve got to figure out is that a management problem, or is it something about the animals that is different,” he said. “If you see them walking around on sore feet, then people don’t like to see that, and we in the industry don’t like to see it.”

Though the drug is being investigated, there is no cause for consumers in North Central Florida to fear the use of weight gain drug use on cattle, said Chad Carr, assistant professor and extension meat specialist in the UF veterinary college’s animal sciences department.

Carr, a member of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said these weight gain drugs, also called beta agonists, are nothing new, and they are nothing to fear.

“What a product like this is, is it allows us to extend that growth curve, so that we deposit protein for a longer period of time prior to depositing fatness,” he said.

West said the result of beta agonists is a beef product that’s leaner with less fat, which is what consumers want. In the meantime, he said, Merck & Co. is taking the proper steps to investigate the Zilmax problems.

“I think they’re trying to find out why this is happening, and they’re pulling the product off the market until they find out,” he said. “So I think it’s pretty commendable that they’re willing to do that.”


This entry was posted in Business and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
 

More Stories in Business

Babe Ruth Softball World Series

Babe Ruth Softball World Series Expected To Boost Local Economy

The Hal Brady Recreation Complex in Alachua and Champions Park in Newberry are hosting teams for the Babe Ruth League World Series. Sixty-one teams will compete in various tournament styles beginning on July 31 and ending with the championship games on August 4.


Charlie’s Snow Shack serves Hawaiian shaved ice out of a stationary food truck in northwest Gainesville. The food truck expanded from initially offering 18 flavors when it opened in 2012 to its current 32. Scott St. Lifer / WUFT News

Inexpensive Business Model Provides Success for Local Food Trucks

Off The Griddle is one of the food trucks in Gainesville that provide alternative dining options. Michael Musoke, owner of Off The Griddle, said the trucks cost between $20,000 to $100,000, which is less than it would to open and maintain a restaurant.


Florida Innovation Hub, located in downtown Gainesville. (photo by Samuel Navarro).

Gainesville Strives To Become Florida’s Technology Hub

Florida’s tax-friendly laws and Gainesville’s status as a college town makes it an attractive location for tech companies.


Kristen Hadeed, founder of Student Maid, and Rich Blaser, co-founder of Infinite Energy, explain how Josh impacted the start-up community in Gainesville. They were part of a group of young entrepreneurs in Gainesville who met monthly to discuss their work.

Memorial Held for Gainesville Entrepreneur

A memorial for Josh Greenberg, the co-founder of music streaming service Grooveshark, was held Friday evening at the Phillips Center. He was found dead in his home July 19.


Gainesville Regional Airport.

City Commission Passes Ordinance To Regulate Uber

In an effort to even the scales, the Gainesville City Commission voted Thursday afternoon to regulate app-based transportation services like Uber. The ordinance will hold them to standards similar to those of traditional taxi drivers.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Underwriting Payments