Cargill has now announced it will also stop purchasing cattle finished on the feed additive Zilmax – supporting Merck Animal Health’s commitment to research recent animal welfare concerns regarding the product. Cargill has not linked Zilmax to any specific incidents involving animal well-being – but does believe more research is necessary. Cargill did take a full year to study Zilmax before accepting it in June 2012.
It’s estimated 70 to 80-percent of the U.S. fed cattle herd was finished on Zilmax or Optaflexx last year – and Cargill says its decision to accept cattle fed with the additive was partially based on the high percentage of cattle being fed beta agonists along with the drought’s effect on the U.S. cattle herd. The final cattle in Cargill’s supply chain being fed Zilmax will be harvested by the end of September. The company says this should give producers enough time to transition cattle currently being treated with Zilmax.
Meanwhile, Tyson’s decision to end purchases of cattle fed Zilmax at the beginning of this month has caused a domino effect in the industry through other companies – including the latest announcement from Cargill. This decrease in Zilmax sales has dramatically increased demand for Elanco’s Optaflexx – and some new customers are unable to immediately receive supplies. Elanco representatives are calling customers to see how much everyone needs to try and keep up with this increased demand.
Sterling Marketing President John Nalivka says tight Optaflexx supplies could temporarily pinch beef production at some feedlots – but there should be little impact on the nation’s overall beef supply. Nalivka says the U.S. won’t run out of beef – and feeders can adjust feed rations and take other measures to control production.