A new feed ingredient designed to improve production efficiencies and red meat yield during the last phase of the feeding period is on the horizon. Elanco Animal Health announced in July the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of Optaflexx, a product that when fed during the final stage of the finishing period has been shown in company trials to increase live weight gain, improve feed efficiency and increase red meat yield.

Elanco says that Optaflexx, with the active ingredient ractopamine hydrochloride, doesn't interfere with meat quality and eating quality.Ractopamine hydrochloride is a beta-agonist that increases the protein deposition rate in cattle. It is best described as a “repartioning agent.”

Optaflexx is indicated for cattle fed in confinement for slaughter during the last 28-42 days on feed. Estimates are that when used at Elanco's recommended dose of 200/mg./head/day rate for 28 days, the cost of feeding Optaflexx will be about $7/head. The company says that at this rate an average steer fed Optaflexx will yield approximately 17 lbs. (7.71 kg.) of additional live weight and approximately 14 lbs. (6.35 kg.) of additional carcass weight.

Ractopamine hydrochloride marketed by Elanco under the trade name Paylean™ is in use in the swine industry where the implementation of lean value carcass pricing systems have led to the selection of pigs with increased carcass lean percentages and improved lean feed conversion.

Optaflexx will become commercially available for cattle after Elanco completes an outreach and educational program to key stakeholders throughout the beef industry and food chain.

The FDA approved Optaflexx in June after thoroughly reviewing all data to ensure Optaflexx meets its stringent human food safety, animal safety and environmental safety standards, says Andy Crook, Elanco marketing manager for cattle products.

Company representatives say, though, they still need time to test how Optaflexx interacts with a variety of commercially available growth implants.

Optaflexx will be available as a 25-lb. bag containing 45.4 g. of ractopamine hydrochloride/lb. The product must be thoroughly mixed into feeds before use. There is no withdrawal period associated with the use of Optaflexx.

This is the first product approved for use in cattle by the FDA that, in addition to safety, efficacy and meat quality, was also evaluated for eating quality. The FDA concluded that no differences in palatability, as defined by tenderness, juiciness and flavor, would be detected by the consumer.