Ensuring appropriate animal welfare is a high priority for the beef industry, and poorly defined abnormalities in the mobility of cattle at abattoirs have gained considerable attention recently. During the summer of 2013, abattoirs throughout the United States reported concerns about nonambulatory or slow and difficult to move cattle and cattle that sloughed hoof walls. This report describes various cattle that developed these mobility problems soon after arrival at an abattoir. Affected cattle had various clinical signs including tachypnea with an abdominal component to breathing, lameness, and reluctance to move. Some cattle sloughed 1 or more hoof walls while in lairage pens and were euthanized. Other cattle recovered after being rested overnight. Affected cattle had serum lactate concentration and creatine kinase activity increased from reference ranges. Histologic findings included diffuse necrosis of the epidermal laminae with degenerate collagen and perivascular infiltration of neutrophils in the underlying deep dermis, and were similar for digits that had and had not sloughed the hoof wall. With the exception of the sloughed hoof walls, the clinical signs and serum biochemical abnormalities observed in affected cattle were similar to those observed in pigs with fatigued pig syndrome, and we propose that fatigued cattle syndrome be used to describe such cattle. Although anecdotal evidence generated concern that cattle fed the β-adrenergic receptor agonist zilpaterol hydrochloride were at greater risk of developing mobility problems, compared with cattle not fed zilpaterol, this condition is likely multifactorial. Strategies to prevent this condition are needed to protect the welfare of cattle.
OBJECTIVE To investigate the effects of dietary supplementation with the β-adrenoceptor agonists ractopamine hydrochloride and zilpaterol hydrochloride on ECG and clinicopathologic variables of finishing beef steers.
DESIGN Randomized controlled trial.
ANIMALS 30 Angus steers.
PROCEDURES Steers were grouped by body weight and randomly assigned to receive 1 of 3 diets for 23 days: a diet containing no additive (control diet) or a diet containing ractopamine hydrochloride (300 mg/steer/d) or zilpaterol hydrochloride (8.3 mg/kg [3.8 mg/lb] of feed on a dry-matter basis), beginning on day 0. Steers were instrumented with an ambulatory ECG monitor on days −2, 6, 13, and 23, and continuous recordings were obtained for 72, 24, 24, and 96 hours, respectively. At the time of instrumentation, blood samples were obtained for CBC and serum biochemical and blood lactate analysis. Electrocardiographic recordings were evaluated for mean heart rate and arrhythmia rates.
RESULTS Steers fed zilpaterol or ractopamine had greater mean heart rates than those fed the control diet. Mean heart rates were within reference limits for all steers, with the exception of those in the ractopamine group on day 14, in which mean heart rate was high. No differences in arrhythmia rates were identified among the groups, nor were any differences identified when arrhythmias were classified as single, paired, or multiple (> 2) beats.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE Results suggested that dietary supplementation of cattle with ractopamine or zilpaterol at FDA-approved doses had no effect on arrhythmia rates but caused an increase in heart rate that remained within reference limits.