Reuters: Suspended Feed Additive Zilmax Suspected in Cattle Hoof-loss, Deaths

In early August 6, 2015, Tyson Foods, citing “ambulatory” or “behavioral” problems, announced that its slaughterhouses would no longer accept cattle that had been fed Zilmax, leading Merck & Co. to suspend sales of the popular feed additive. Details on the “ambulatory problems” that prompted Tyson’s decision were not forthcoming until today’s report by Reuters: The day before the announcement, fifteen Zilmax-fed cattle delivered to a Tyson slaughterhouse in Washington state were discovered to have lost their hooves. Two more were discovered the next day.

Zilmax, the trade name for the beta-agonist zilpaterol, is a feed additive which promotes weight-gain in cattle. It is typically added the diet of beef cattle in the last three to six weeks before slaughter. Studies show that it increases the size and feed efficiency of the cattle, therefore increasing their value and their profitability to the seller.

In 2012, Zilmax sales in the US and Canada totaled $159 million. In 2012, an estimated 75% of all cattle on feed in the US-nearly 8 million head in the US and over 1.5 million in Texas alone-were fed Zilmax or Eli Lilly’s competing beta-agonist, Optaflexx. Given the severity of the problems found in Washington, this could be cause for grave concern in the beef industry and particularly for Texas-the largest cattle-feeding state in the US.

If you or anyone you know have suffered business losses due to a defective livestock drugs, contact the attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling (713) 222-7211 or 713-222-7211.