Relationships between lamb carcass quality traits measured by X-ray computed tomography (CT) and current UK-hill sheep breeding goals.

N. R. Lambe, J. Conington, S. C. Bishop, K. A. McLean, L. Bünger, A. McLaren, Geoff Simm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Genetic parameters were estimated between current UK hill sheep breeding goals and lamb carcass composition and muscularity traits derived using X-ray computed tomography (CT). To produce these estimates, a total of 648 lambs from two hill farms were CT scanned at weaning (ca 120 days of age), over 3 years, and total weights of carcass muscle (MUSC), fat (CFAT) and bone (BONE) and internal fat (IFAT) were predicted. Previously derived muscularity indices were also calculated for the hind leg (HLMI) and lumbar (LRMI) regions, to assess muscle shape. Data for current breeding goals (lamb performance and maternal traits) were also included from a total of 10 297 lamb records and 12 704 ewe records. Heritabilities were estimated for each trait and genetic and phenotypic correlations were calculated between each CT trait and other lamb or ewe traits.
Moderate to high positive genetic correlations were found between CT-predicted tissue weights and breeding goals, which were also weights (lamb weaning weight, carcass weight, mature ewe weight, average weight of lambs reared by the ewe). CFAT was positively genetically correlated with ultrasound backfat depth at weaning (UFD) and subjective fatness grade at slaughter (MLCF), suggesting that carcass fat could be decreased using selection on any of these predictors. Ultrasound muscle depth at weaning (UMD) and subjective conformation score at slaughter (MLCC) had high genetic correlations with the muscularity indices (HLMI and LRMI), but correlations with MUSC were not significantly different from zero. This implies that selection to improve MLCC is likely to be increasing the ‘roundness’ of muscle shape in the high-priced carcass region, but having little
impact on total lean meat yield. Correlations of CT traits with the other ewe traits (number of lambs weaned, number of lambs lost, longevity, fleece weight) were generally small or not significantly different from zero. The genetic parameters generated in this study can now be used in selection index calculations to assess the benefits of including lamb CT traits in future selection programmes for hill sheep.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-43
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Body Composition
  • carcass composition
  • Computed tomography
  • Genes
  • Genetic parameters
  • Sheep


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