Influence of ractopamine hydrochloride and days on feed on feedlot performance and red meat yield in thin cull beef cows targeted for a lean market

Jonathan C. DeClerck, Loni W. Lucherk, Nathan R. Reeves, Mark F. Miller, Bryan C. Bernhard, Ryan J. Rathmann

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4 Scopus citations


Thin, beef, cull cows [n = 144; initial body weight (BW) = 465.8 ± 56.9 kg, initial body condition score (BCS) = 2.13 ± 0.68] were serially slaughtered to evaluate the relationship between ractopamine hydrochloride (RH) administration and days on feed (DOF) on feedlot performance and carcass cutout value in a lean cow market. Cows were organized into a 3 × 2 factorial arrangement of treatments (48 pens, 8 pens per treatment, 3 cows per pen) and blocked by BW nested within pregnancy status. Treatment pens were top-dressed 400 mg per cow per day of RH (Actogain 45; Zoetis, Parsippany, NJ) for the final 28 d prior to slaughter to cows spending 28, 42, or 56 DOF. Pen served as the experimental unit, for all calculations. No RH × DOF interactions were detected (P ≥ 0.11), indicating that despite a majority of compensatory gain occurring during the first 28 d of the trial, the magnitude of the RH response was not affected by DOF. Compared to controls, RH incited improvements in feedlot performance, but had a greater extent on carcass weight gain and efficiency. Specifically, RH improved average daily gain (ADG) by 13.7% (P = 0.04) and carcass ADG by 16.9% (P = 0.02) Cattle fed RH displayed a 15.5% improved gain to feed ratio (P = 0.02) and a 20% improved carcass gain to feed ratio (P = 0.05). Inclusion of RH in the finishing diet increased hot carcass weight by 4.5% (P = 0.05; 12.9 kg). However, supplementation of RH did not alter red meat yield (P ≥ 0.16), but provoked a 11.1% improvement in lean maturity (P < 0.01). Evaluation of the main effect of DOF provided insight into the compensatory state of beef cull cows on a high-concentrate diet. Serial slaughter offal weights presented confounding results. With additional DOF, a numerical increase in liver weights (P = 0.20) suggested that organ tissue replenishment occurred throughout the trial, and cattle experienced compensatory gain during the entire feeding phase. In contrast, lung and heart weights were not altered, while kidney tended to decrease linearly (P = 0.08) despite additional DOF. Furthermore, extending DOF generated a linear increase in dry matter intake (P < 0.01) yet a tendency for a decline in ADG (P = 0.10), reinforcing the premise that most of compensatory gain occurred during the first 28 d of the trial. If thin (BCS ≤ 4), healthy candidates can be finished, feeders can reap the benefits of an additive relationship between compensatory gain and RH.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-181
Number of pages12
JournalTranslational Animal Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020


  • Beta agonist
  • Compensatory gain
  • Cull cow
  • Days on feed
  • Ractopamine hydrochloride
  • Serial slaughter


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