What is a Beta Agonist?

A beta agonist works to relax smooth muscle tissue.  In humans, it is used to treat or prevent breathing problems that result from asthma or other airway diseases.  My daughter, Karyn, uses an albuterol inhaler before athletic events—this is an example of a beta agonist.  By relaxing the smooth muscle tissue in the airway, albuterol allows air to flow in and out of her lungs more easily.

Yes, it was cold enough Friday to warrant the stocking cap…Especially since she had just finished swimming practice 🙂

The use of an albuterol inhaler is new for Karyn.  Those of you that followed Feed Yard Foodie last November and December will remember that she became very ill and was hospitalized with pneumonia over Thanksgiving weekend.  My baby (she may be 7, but she’s still my baby!) got very sick, and her respiratory system still has not fully healed.  While there appears to be no permanent damage to her lungs, the tissue in her airway has not fully recovered which impedes her ability to move oxygen in and out of her lungs.

Go Kare-Bear Go!

Because she is such a tremendous little athlete, this challenges her.  She is my most “stoic” child, and never complains.  But, as I watched her run early this spring when athletics started up again after a winter hiatus, I could see her struggle to breathe.  When I initially took her to the doctor, she was only getting a 60% supply of oxygen into her lungs.  After an intensive two week treatment, we got her up to 80%.  She is on the right track, but it will take time for her to fully heal.  Until then, her albuterol inhaler will be a part of our athletic routine.

Setting the meet record in the 200M Saturday in Hastings, Nebraska…

Modern medicine and medical technology is amazing.  The first beta agonist became available for human use in 1968, and it has revolutionized the lives of asthma patients or other people like Karyn that have a temporary condition which impedes oxygen flow.

Animal scientists often look to human medical advancements for new ideas.  Animal scientists and food animal caregivers are constantly looking for ways to improve.  Whether you are talking about improvement in animal care, improvement in food quality and safety, or improvement in the use of resources necessary to grow that food; we constantly search for ways to get better.

I raise them to make beef—I am always looking for ways to do a better job. That sets both my animals up for success and also, you, the consumer of my beef.

A couple of decades after the first beta agonist became available for use in human medicine, animal researchers began looking for ways that they could be beneficial on farms growing food.  They discovered that a beta agonist could allow cattle to increase lean muscle (what we want to eat), and decrease fat deposition (what we do not want to eat) all while enabling them to use fewer pounds of feed to make more pounds of human food.

It is my job to be a responsible grower of food…Technology helps me to do this!

Thursday’s post will talk in more depth about the role that beta agonists play in improving the beef that I grow on my farm.  Which one do I use?—Why do I choose to use it?—How does it work?—How does it affect my animals and the beef that they make?

Family time on the track last Saturday—minus my favorite 12 year old who was competing in Tennessee at the Global Finals for Destination Imagination…

Beta agonists play an important role on my farm—Just as they play an important role in allowing my youngest daughter to continue with her love of athletics while her respiratory tract completes the healing process.


Filed under Antibiotics, hormones, and other growth promotants..., General

14 responses to “What is a Beta Agonist?

  1. You do such a great of relating family life to farm/ feedlot life. Of course it is all intricately interrelated, isn’t it? I’m glad your daughter is doing so well!

  2. Paula

    Very informative post–both from your family’s health challenges and then relating it back to food production. My “baby,” Katherine-age 17, is a swimmer and has exercised-induced asthma (which is something totally new to me, having been an athlete and not having to wrestle with it). I do get concerned that she is using her inhaler properly. She is at that age when she says she “knows what she is doing. ” 🙂 I grew up on a Michigan dairy farm so I know, too, what is takes to raise healthy animals. Anne, I so enjoy your posts! Thanks!

    • Thank you Paula–I am glad that you enjoy the posts. I need to visit a dairy sometime so that I can learn about “where my milk comes from”! My family goes through a gallon a milk every day or two so we are good supporters of the dairy industry!

      I am glad that your daughter has found a way to make her inhaler a part of her life—we are still getting used to Karyn’s. At age 7, she still needs help doing it. I love that your daughter is a swimmer. I have a lot of fond memories from my time “in the pool”.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment,

  3. Jessica

    Thanks Anne!! Loved it!

  4. Working at the harvest plants, evaluating the live animals I saw reults of beta agonists. On more than one occasion I observed extremely graphic, disturbing adverse reactions. Things men who had received live animals for harvest more than 30 years described with wild eyes “I have never seen anything like that!” Please check with Temple Grandin, she has been gathering data on beta agonist feed additives.. If you need her contact information I have email and phone.

    • Hi Donna:

      You bring a different perspective having worked at the harvest plants and I thank you for your comment. I am aware that Dr. Grandin is gathering data on the use of beta agonists and I would be interested in her ideas.

      I believe that I have found a beta agonist to use at my feed yard that is complimentary to good animal welfare, good animal performance, and beef quality. I can only speak toward the feed additive that I use on my farm (which is not the only beta agonist on the market).

      I believe that beta agonist use is a tool that can improve beef production if used properly. Because of the type of cattle that I have on my farm, the use of a beta agonist allows my animals to have leaner meat going into the harvest facility while still keeping the muscle marbeling that gives the beef taste and tenderness.

      I am going to talk more in depth in tomorrow’s post about which beta agonist I use and my experience with the product. I can tell you that animal welfare is important to me and I would not feed a product that I felt compromised it.

      Thanks for sharing. I would love to see Dr. Grandin’s data if you have the ability to pass it along.


      • Anne
        I do not have access to Temple’s beta agonist information. She has been collecting data since at least 2006. Despite her personal aversion towards their use she will present a thorough, objective summary. Truly I urge you to contact her yourself. You are an exceptionally conscientious manager in all aspects.
        By virtue of beta agonist mechanism of action adverse reactions are not always evident until live animals are exposed to additional stressors. I find myself struggling too much presenting my perspective, observations, complete confidence in my knowledge & insight..

  5. Excellent way to educate those of us who don’t raise cattle, but do eat beef. Bravo, Anne!

  6. Pingback: Farm and Food Radio: Beta Agonists and Cattle… | Feed Yard Foodie

  7. Pingback: Ask a Farmer: Beta Agonists and Cattle Feeding | Agriculture Proud

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