ZILMAX and OPTAFLEXX have different cost structures and produce different carcass value, so Merck Animal Health invested in two large-scale feedyard trials using heifers in southern Alberta, Canada, and steers in the Panhandle of Texas.
Outcomes of these two trials were clear, says John Hutcheson, director of technical services for Merck Animal Health.
“If you’re selling cattle on the live market, feed OPTAFLEXX at the end of the feeding period. If you’re selling on a carcass basis, ZILMAX delivers significantly more carcass value and return on investment to the cattle feeder,” he says.
Live market tool
“Live market sellers realize value from the total weight of their cattle, not by carcass weight,” says Ty Lawrence, Ty Lawrence, associate professor of animal science at West Texas A&M University. “These cattle feeders need to ensure their feed supplement delivers more live weight value than the input costs of the product.”
The additional live weight gain and the product investment make OPTAFLEXX a good value proposition for cattle feeders selling on the live market, Hutcheson says.
The product is fed the last 28 to 42 days on feed and is shown to increase live weight in beef steers an average 17 pounds and hot carcass weight by 14 pounds when fed a 200 milligram dose.
Even though ZILMAX with 19 pounds and OPTAFLEXX with 17 pounds deliver nearly the same response in live weight gain, the return on investment with ZILMAX is a breakeven for the live weight market.
“ZILMAX’s real value is realized in … significant increases in carcass value,” Hutcheson says. “ZILMAX delivers an average of 33 pounds of carcass weight and 19 pounds of additional live weight when fed for the recommended 20-day feeding period in beef steers,” he adds
In both the steer and heifer trials, cattle supplemented with ZILMAX delivered carcasses that were 21 pounds heavier than those from OPTAFLEXX-supplemented cattle, whether fed 200 or 300 milligrams per head per day. Along with additional salable red meat, carcasses from cattle supplemented with ZILMAX had improved yield grade and provided higher cutability. All of these benefits bring significant value to cattle feeders and down the food chain.
ZILMAX returned an added profit of $20.35 per head in the Canada heifer trial and $19.75 per head in the Texas steer trial over OPTAFLEXX. This after including costs for the product and ration, as well as factoring in premiums and discounts for yield grade and quality grade premiums and discounts, Hutcheson says.
The additional carcass value also is complimented by the preservation of the eating quality. Carcasses from heifers fed both ZILMAX and OPTAFLEXX yielded no difference in Warner-Bratzler shear force measurements at 3.51 kilograms — well below meat science established thresholds for consumer satisfaction.
The studies included 3,444 heifers in Canada and 2,788 steers in Texas.