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Interpretive Summary: Ractopamine hydrochloride improves performance and reduces environmental gas emissions in feedlot cattle

By: Anne Kamiya, MS

Finding efficient ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while increasing performance is crucial for optimizing the production of feedlot steers. In this recent Journal of Animal Science article, researchers studied how feeding ractopamine hydrochloride (RAC) impacted the performance and greenhouse gas emissions of feedlot steers. Ractopamine is a β-adrenergic agonist drug and feed additive that promotes leanness, weight gain and feed efficiency. Its effects on performance, but not environmental gas emissions, are well known. Researchers in this study hypothesized that feeding RAC to feedlot steers would both improve their performance and reduce their environmental gas emissions. 

Steers were fed either a standard diet with added RAC (Actogain 45) or a control standard diet with no added RAC, starting from 42 days before harvesting. Ammonia (NH3), nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4), hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and carbon dioxide (CO2) gas emissions, growth performance, and carcass characteristics were all monitored during the study. Animals fed RAC had notable reductions in NH3 and H2S gas emissions compared to the control group. Average daily gain, gain to feed ratio and hot carcass weight was also higher in RAC-fed steers than in the control group. 

Overall, the results of this study suggest that feeding feedlot steers ractopamine hydrochloride can reduce some environmental gas emissions while simultaneously improving performance. More studies into the ability and effectivity of RAC on maximizing production and reducing environmental gas emissions are justified. 

The original article, Effect of ractopamine hydrochloride on environmental gas emissions, growth performance, and carcass characteristics in feedlot steers, is available in the Journal of Animal Science.