Animal Science Department


Date of this Version



Macfarlane, Lewis & Emmans in Animal Science (2004) 79.


Copyright 2004, British Society of Animal Science. Used by permission.


The effects of sward, breed type and sex on lamb growth and carcass composition were measured at two degrees of maturity in live weight. The three breed types were Scottish Blackface (no. =60), Suffolk (no. =59) and their reciprocal crosses (no. =60). The lambs grazed swards of either ryegrass, clover or a mixed sward intended to contain both. The proportion of the mixed sward as clover was only 0·014. Each lamb was scanned using X-ray computed tomography to measure the weights offat, lean and bone in the carcass at two proportions of mature body weight (0·30 and 0·45). Live weights were recorded weekly. Average daily gains (ADG) in live weight and carcass tissues were calculated for each lamb between the 0·30 and 0·45 stages of maturity. At the 0·30 stage of maturity, breed type differences in carcass composition were small; the Scottish Blackface had 0·942 as much bone as the Suffolk lambs (P < 0·001), with the cross lambs intermediate. At the 0·45 stage of maturity, Scottish Blackface lambs had less fat (0·749 times as much; P < 0·001), more lean (1·065 times as much; P < 0·001) and more bone (1·055 times as much; P < 0·001) than did Suffolk lambs. The values for crossbred lambs were intermediate but closer to those of the Suffolk. Neither sward nor its interaction with breed type had any significant effect on carcass composition at either the 0·30 or 0·45 stage of maturity. The effect of sex on carcass composition was significant at the 0·45 stage of maturity when castrated male lambs had less fat (P < 0·001) and more lean (P < 0·001) than female lambs. There were breed type by sward interactions for ADG in live weight (P < 0·05), in carcass weight (P < 0·001), and in fat (P < 0·001) and bone weights (P < 0·05). The interactions were such that Suffolk lambs had higher growth rates than Scottish Blackface lambs on clover but not on ryegrass or the mixed sward. There were no significant differences between Suffolk and crossbred lambs in growth rates on any sward. In this, and in two other experiments, the extent to which growth rate declined as the nutritional environment became worse wasgreater (P < 0·05) in Suffolk than in Scottish Blackface lambs; that is, Suffolklambs expressed greater environmental sensitivity than the Scottish Blackface.