Merck to study industry use of cattle drug Zilmax

CHICAGO Tue Aug 13, 2013 1:30pm EDT

CHICAGO Aug 13 (Reuters) - In the wake of mounting questions over its popular growth feed additive for cattle, Merck and Co's animal health unit said it is launching a five-step plan to reach out to cattle packers and suppliers in the next 30 days to address questions concerns over its drug Zilmax.

Among other steps, the Summit, New Jersey-based Merck Animal Health said it will launch a scientific audit of cattle feedlot operators and beef processors.

The audit will focus "on the feeding of Zilmax, and will follow those cattle from the feedyards to the packing plant to determine potential causes of lameness and other mobility issues during feeding, transportation, offloading and staging at the processing facility," acccording to the company's statement.

Zilmax, Merck's product, is a type of drug called a beta-agonist and is commonly used in the beef cattle industry to help animals gain additional muscle weight prior to slaughter.

The company also plans to conduct a review of other potential compounding factors such as nutrition, transportation and receiving facilities that might affect animal health. Merck did not state whether such audits will be voluntary or required from customers before Merck sells Zilmax to them.

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