Use of zilpaterol hydrocholoride to reduce odors and gas production from the feedlot surface when beef cattle are fed diets with or without ethanol byproducts


Many malodorous compounds emitted from the feedlot surface of beef finishing facilities result from protein degradation of feces and urine (Mackie et al., 1998; Miller and Varel, 2001, 2002). The inclusion of wet distillers grain with solubles (WDGS) in beef finishing diets has been shown to increase nitrogen excretion (Spiehs and Varel, 2009; Hales et al., 2012) which can increase odorous compounds in waste (Spiehs and Varel, 2009). Zilpaterol hydrochloride (ZH) is a supplement fed to cattle for a short period of time (21 days) near the end of the finishing phase to improve efficiency of lean gain. Improvements in feed efficiency and lean tissue accretion potentially decrease nitrogen excretion from cattle. Therefore, the use of ZH in feedlot diets, especially those containing WDGS, may reduce the concentration of odorous compounds on the feedlot surface. The objective of this study was to determine if the addition of ZH to beef f inishing diets containing 0 or 30% WDGS would decrease odor and gas production from the feedlot surface.

What did we do?

Sixteen pens of cattle (25-28 cattle/pen) were used in a 2 x 2 factorial study. Factors included 0 or 30% WDGS inclusion and 0 or 84 mg/steer daily ZH for 21 d at the end of the finishing period. Each of the four following treatment combinations were fed to 4 pens of cattle: 1) finishing diet containing 0% WDGS and 0 mg ZH, 2) finishing diet containing 30% WDGS and 0 mg ZH, 3) finishing diet containing 0% WDGS and 84 mg/animal daily ZH and 4) finishing diet containing 30% WDGS and 84 mg/animal daily ZH. A minimum of 20 fresh fecal pads were collected from each feedlot pen on six occasions. Samples were mixed within pen and a sub-sample was placed in a small wind-tunnel. Duplicate samples for each pen were analyzed. Odorous volatile organic compounds were collected on sorbent tubes and analyzed for straight-chain fatty acids, branched-chain fatty acids, aromatic compounds, and sulfide compounds using a thermal desorption-gas chromatograph-mass spectrometry (Aglient Technologies, Inc, Santa Clara, CA). Ammonia (NH3) production was measured using a Model 17i Ammonia Analyzer (Thermo Scientific, Franklin, MA), and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) was measured using a Model 450i Hydrogen Sulfide Analyzer (Thermo Scientific, Franklin, MA).

What have we learned?

Inclusion of ZH in beef finishing diets was effective in lowering the concentration of total sulfides, total branched-chain fatty acids, and hydrogen sulfide from fresh cattle feces. Inclusion of 30% WDGS to beef feedlot diets increased the concentration of odorous aromatic compounds from feces. Ammonia concentration was not affected by the inclusion of either WDGS or ZH in the finishing diet. Producers may see a reduction in odorous emissions when ZH are fed to beef finishing cattle.

Table 1. Effect of ZH and WDGS inclusion in beef feedlot diets on concentration of odorous volatile organic compounds from cattle feces

Future Plans

Additional research is planned to evaluate the use of β-agonists, such as ZH, with moderate and aggressive implant strategies. These implants may further improve feed efficiency and lean gain, thereby potentially reducing excess nutrient excretion and odorous emissions. Evaluation odorous emissions from the feedlot surface when ZH are fed is also needed.


Mindy J. Spiehs, USDA, ARS, U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, NE

Kristin E. Hales, USDA, ARS, U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, NE

Additional information

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Literature cited

Hales, K. E., N. A. Cole, and J. C. MacDonald. 2012. Effects of corn processing method and dietary inclusion of wet distillers grains with solubles on energy metabolism, carbon-nitrogen balance, and methane emissions of cattle. J. Anim. Sci. 90:3174-3185.

Mackie, R. I., P. G. Stroot, and V. H. Varel. 1998. Biochemical identification and biological origin of key odor components in livestock waste. J. Anim. Sci. 76:1331-1342.\

Miller, D. N. and V. H. Varel. 2001. In vitro study of the biochemical origin and production limits of odorous compounds in cattle feedlots. J. Anim. Sci. 79:2949-2956.

Miller, D. N. and V. H. Varel. 2002. An in vitro study of manure composition on the biochemical origins, composition, and accumulation of odorous compounds in cattle feedlots . J. Anim. Sci. 80:2214-2222.

Spiehs, M. J. and V. H. Varel. 2009. Nutrient excretion and odorant production in manure from cattle fed corn wet distillers grains with solubles. J. Anim. Sci. 87:2977-2984.


The authors wish to thank Alan Kruger and Elaine Ven John for assistance with data collection.

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