That powerful price has been discussed more than once during the drought conditions that have hammered the Midwest, much like the dry weather seen on the Southern Plains in 2011. Drought was projected in at least 26 states, including many in the Corn Belt. In mid-July, USDA projected corn yield decreases of 20 bu./acre, down to about 146 bu./acre. That all means continued pressure on feed costs and even more emphasis on improved feed efficiency.

Miller says that using Optaflexx can certainly improve a set of cattle’s margin. “You have to use it to compete,” he stresses.

Keeling added Optaflexx to his feeding program after he and his nutritionist decided it was a product that they needed in their rations.

Despite high feeder cattle costs, Keeling strives to keep his pens full. About 60% of the cattle are company owned. That’s a big feed bill. Feed grains, distillers grains and supplements must be used efficiently.

“Our yard feeds a lot of heifers, so we have many rations,” Keeling says. “Before we began using Optaflexx, we had five rations. Now we have at least seven. I’m impressed with the data behind it.”

Cattle receive it for different time periods, depending on their weight and/or plan for marketing. “We see a large benefit to heifers. I noticed early on that the cattle just pop,” Keeling says. “The rib covered, the flank dropped and the brisket filled. I watched it over and over. I knew it was from that product.”

Keeling says he and his crew are comfortable with using the Optaflexx  technology, even with the challenges of feeding additional rations. “It’s easy to work with. Good management practices make it an easy product to use, easier than I had first envisioned.”

There are some challenges when using one beta-agonist over another. For example, the beta-2 agonist's three-day withdrawal period discourages some feeders like Keeling, as well as packers seeking just the right carcass in their branded programs. “More safeguards have to be in place for the beta-2 agonist,” Miller says, adding that if a feedyard isn’t selling cattle on a carcass basis, “it can’t afford to use the beta-2 agonist.”

John Scanga, an Elanco technical consultant, says beta-agonists are still a relatively new technology that can markedly impact the profitability of finishing cattle. He adds that when profit margins are tight, “the use of technologies such as feed additives and implants should not be overlooked.

“Feed additives are compounds fed to feedlot cattle for reasons other than supplying nutrients,” Scanga says. “These compounds increase the rate of gain and feed efficiency of beef cattle, decreasing the cost of production and improving the profit potential of feedlot producers.”

For more on the benefits of using beta-agonists, click here.