Animal Science Department


Date of this Version



Animal (2007), 1:10, pp 1427–1434 doi: 10.1017/S1751731107000808


© The Animal Consortium 2007


Hypotheses on total body chemical composition were tested using data from 350 Suffolk sheep grown to a wide range of live weights, and fed in a non-limiting way, or with reduced amounts of feed, or ad libitum on feeds of reduced protein content. The sheep were from an experiment where selection used an index designed to increase the lean deposition rate while restricting the fat deposition rate. Ultrasound muscle and fat depths were the only composition measurements in the index. The animals were males and females from a selection (S) line and its unselected control (C). The protein content of the lipid-free dry matter was unaffected by live weight, sex or feeding treatment with only a very small effect of genetic line (0.762 kg/kg in S and 0.753 kg/kg in C; P< 0.05). The form of the relationship between water and protein was not affected by any of the factors; in the different kinds of sheep it was consistent with no effect other than through differences in mature protein weight. The water : protein ratio at maturity was estimated as 3.45. Over the whole dataset, lipid weight ( L) increased with protein weight ( P) according to L=0.31353 P1.850. Allowing for this scaling, fatness increased on low-protein feeds, was greater in females than in males and in C than in S ( P< 0.001). Lipid content (g/kg fleece-free empty body weight) was reduced by restricted feeding only in males at the highest slaughter weight (114 kg). The lines differed in lipid content ( P,0.001) with means of 265.1 g/kg for C and 237.3 g/kg for S. Importantly, there was no interaction between line and feeding treatments. A higher proportion of total body protein was in the carcass in S than in C (0.627 v. 0.610; P< 0.001). For lipid, the difference was reversed (0.736 v. 0.744; P< 0.05). The total energy content increased quadratically with slaughter weight. At a particular weight, the energy content of gain was higher in females than in males and in C than in S. Genetic selection affected body composition at a weight favouring the distribution of protein to the carcass and lipid to the noncarcass. Once allowing for effects of genetic selection, sex and feeding treatment on fatness, simple rules can be used to generate the chemical composition of sheep.