Producers using Merck's Zilmax beta agonist will find the production temporarily suspended as part of an effort by the company to strengthen its commitment to its Five-Step Approach to Ensuring Responsible Beef.
The company already announced last week that in conjunction with a team of independent experts it would conduct a scientific audit that would monitor the process of feeding cattle Zilmax and allow identified cattle from the feedyard to the packing plant to determine potential causes of lameness and other mobility issues during feeding.
It was those lameness and mobility issues that led Tyson to ban cattle fed Zilmax starting Sept. 6. The news was a surprise to cattle producers, a majority of whom feed Zilmax, or another beta agonist OptaFlexx from Elanco. Zilmax was singled out as the cause of the lame and downed cattle by Tyson.
Merck says it will also do a thorough review of potential compounding factors, such as nutrition, transportation and receiving facilities.
In its announcement, Merck says: "In support of our customers and to ensure effective implementation of our five-step plan, Merck Animal Health has made the decision to temporarily suspend sales of Zilmax in the United States and Canada. This will allo sufficient time for the establishment of valid study protocols, identification of feedrs and packers to participle in the audit and creation of a third-party team to oversee this process and validate its results.
"We remain confident in the safety of the product, based on our own extensive research and that of regulators and academic institutions, and are committed to the well-being of the animals that receive it," according to KJ Varma, BVSc, Ph.D., Diplomate ACVCP, Senior Vice President Global R&D, Merck Animal Health.