A Long New Globe & Mail Story Suggests High Summer Temps, Coupled To Zilmax®, May Have Been In Issue

Canada’s Globe and Mail (via Reuters) has put together the most complete story I’ve yet seen on the various likely and possible connections, and therefor possible interlaced cause(s), of the cattle lameness reported in late August of 2013 — in the Northwest US. Back story here.

That lameness “outbreak” led Merck to suspend sales of Zilmax®. Interestingly, this year’s end of summer, in the Northwest US, was particularly hot — the hottest in about 25 years, according to meteorologists. And 25 years ago, what was then Intervet (later Schering-Plough) didn’t even have Zilmax approved and on the market, yet. So, this story bears a very careful reading, even if (as we believe), Zilmax is not material to Merck’s overall financial results.

. . . .Beef Northwest operates a feedlot in Nyssa [Oregon]. Animals making the trip to Pasco would have stood in a trailer for four hours on a 95-degree day as it travelled to Tyson’s plant.

John Wilson, managing partner of Beef Northwest, confirmed that his company was using a Zilmax feed regimen this summer. About 40 of Beef Northwest’s animals “developed lameness after arriving at a packing plant in two incidents in July and August of this year,” he said. Wilson declined to identify the slaughterhouse and would not confirm the animals were destroyed.

Wilson said Beef Northwest had never faced lameness problems with its Zilmax-fed animals before this summer. While Beef Northwest was dispensing Zilmax, Wilson said, the company strictly followed Merck’s dosage and other instructions.

Beef Northwest says it frequently conducted internal and third-party audits to ensure employees were not over-feeding Zilmax to the animals.

“In our cases, dosages were not an issue, never an issue,” Wilson said in a phone interview. “I’d like to think that we were on the upper edge of the industry as far as heavy oversight of all of our protocols. . . .”

We will keep you posted. And even though immaterial, financially to Merck — I’d suggest we all should evaluate what is in the various things we are now eating. [As I noted, Zilmax wasn’t in our cattle, or your burger, 25 years ago.] Do we really need/want traces of zilpaterol, a beta agonist (the primary active ingredient in Zilmax) — an athsma treatment (when given in higher doses, to human asthma patients) — appearing even in trace amounts, or as a trace element, in our ribeye steaks? I am not so certain.

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