Effects of ractopamine hydrochloride on nutrient digestibility and nitrogen excretion of finishing beef cattle

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The objective was to quantify the effects of the beta-adrenergic agonist (β-AA) ractopamine hydrochloride (Actogain, Zoetis, Parsippany, NJ) on nitrogen excretion and nutrient digestibility in feedlot cattle. In experiment 1, 12 Simmental × Angus steers were blocked by bodyweight (531 ± 16 kg) and used in a randomized complete block design. Dietary treatments included: 1) a control without β-AA (CON) or 2) 400 mg/steer/d ractopamine hydrochloride (RAC) for 35 d before slaughter. Diets contained (DM basis) 55% dry-rolled corn, 20% corn silage, 15% modified wet distillers grains with soluble, and 10% supplement. For each block, total collection of feed, orts, feces, and urine were conducted for two 5 d sampling periods during week 2 and 4 of RAC supplementation. No interaction (P > 0.21) between treatment and collection period was observed for any parameter evaluated. Dietary treatment had no effect (P = 0.51) on DMI, but RAC had decreased fecal DM output (P = 0.04) compared with CON. Thus, RAC had greater apparent total tract DM digestibility (77.2 vs. 73.5%; P < 0.01), N digestibility (72.4 vs. 69.4%; P = 0.01), and NDF digestibility (65.6 vs. 60.2%; P < 0.01) than CON. Although treatment did not affect nitrogen intake (P = 0.52), RAC tended to reduce total nitrogen excretion (113.3 vs. 126.7 g/d; P = 0.10) compared with CON due to a tendency for decreased fecal nitrogen output (53.9 vs. 61.3 g/d; P = 0.10). However, dietary treatment had no effect (P = 0.53) on urinary nitrogen output or percentage of urinary nitrogen excreted as urea (P = 0.28). Experiment 2 was an in vitro experiment conducted to validate the effects of RAC on nutrient digestibility using Simmental × Angus heifers (451 ± 50 kg). Rumen fluid was collected individually by stomach tube from CON- (n = 9) and RAC-fed (n = 10) heifers to inoculate bottles containing a CON or RAC-containing substrate in a split-plot design. No interaction between rumen fluid source and in vitro substrate was observed. Greater IVDMD (P = 0.01) was observed in rumen fluid from RAC-fed heifers compared with rumen fluid from CON-fed heifers. The inclusion of RAC in the in vitro substrate increased IVDMD (P < 0.01). Overall, feeding RAC increased microbial digestion of the dry-rolled corn-based finishing diet to increase total tract dry mater digestion by 5% and reduce nitrogen excretion by 10.6% in the 35 d period prior to slaughter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbertxab036
JournalTranslational Animal Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • beta-agonist
  • digestibility
  • feedlot cattle
  • ractopamine hydrochloride

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • General Veterinary


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