The effects of selection indices for sustainable hill sheep production on carcass composition and muscularity of lambs, measured using X-ray computed tomography

N. R. Lambe, L. Bunger, S. C. Bishop, Geoff Simm, J. Conington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

A multi-trait selection index designed to improve the overall economic performance of hill sheep, inducting both maternal and lamb traits, has been developed and tested in a selection experiment over 7 years. Two versions of the index were tested, with different economic weights applied to the traits, on two different hill farms: one version including maternal and growth traits; the other version with additional breeding goals of carcass weight, fatness and conformation scores. Responses to selection, using both versions of the index, suggest that improvements are being made in overall index score and lamb growth. This study investigated the indirect effects of these selection indices on lamb carcass composition and muscularity traits, as measured using X-ray computed tomography (CT) scanning. A total of 499 lambs from the two hill farms were CT scanned at weaning (approximately 120 days of age). Approximately half of the lambs from each farm were from the selection line (S, animals with highest index scores selected for breeding), while the other half were from a control line (C, animals with average index scores selected). Composition and muscularity traits were estimated on each lamb from CT data and differences between genetic lines investigated within farm, using restricted maximum likelihood analyses, adjusting for either live weight or age. Results showed that the selection index without carcass traits produced lambs with carcass composition that was not significantly different to control lambs at a given live weight or age. Including carcass traits in the index resulted in lambs with no compositional differences (except for a slight increase in bone) at a set age compared with controls. At a given live weight however, selection lambs had less fat and lower carcass weights and killing-out percentage. Muscularity (3-D muscle shape) and muscle area shape (2-D) were not improved as a result of selection on either version of the index (including carcass weight and grades in the breeding goals or not) and, at a fixed live weight, muscularity in hind leg and lumbar regions tended to be higher in the C line. To accelerate changes in carcass composition and muscularity within the context of a multi-trait selection index for hill sheep, consideration should therefore be given to including objective CT-derived carcass traits in the index in addition to the Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC) carcass grades or ultrasound measurements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-35
Number of pages9
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Body Composition
  • Computed tomography
  • Sheep


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