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.