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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.