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Genetic and nutritional regulation of lamb growth and muscle characteristics

Hegarty, R.S., Warner, R.D. and Pethick, D.W.ORCID: 0000-0002-3255-7677 (2006) Genetic and nutritional regulation of lamb growth and muscle characteristics. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, 57 (6). pp. 721-730.

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Combined actions of nutrition and genetic regulation of the growth rate of lambs as well as the physical, biochemical, and eating quality characteristics of their skeletal muscle were assessed in a major field experiment. Data arising were collated and integrated to consolidate findings made at the farm, animal, tissue, cellular, and gene expression levels. At the farm level, increased nutrient availability significantly increased the growth rate of crossbred lambs and increased the growth advantage resulting from the use of sires with high estimated breeding values (EBV) for growth. In contrast, the extra depth of the M. longissimus thoracis et lumborum (EMD) arising from sires with a higher EBV for this trait was constant irrespective of nutrition. Ewe liveweight and body condition were critical in determining the pre-weaning nutrition and growth of lambs, with the LOW plane of nutrition causing stunting of forelimb bones and changes to the allometric growth coefficients for carcass lean and fat. The EBV of the sire for muscling (PEMD) influenced several non-muscling traits, and interactions with nutrition suggested that on HIGH nutrition, absorbed nutrients were partitioned away from wool and fat accretion and towards protein accretion in lambs having superior muscling genetics. Expression levels of known myogenic factors in muscle, together with a suite of peptides and proteins whose identity and levels were determined by proteomic screening, contributed to improved understanding of the mechanisms underpinning nutritional and genetic regulation of skeletal muscle development. The study revealed the need for caution in the use of indirect markers of growth or composition, with their usefulness being constrained if the localisation of the response to selection is specific to parts of the carcass where the selection had initially been concentrated. As well, the possibility that much of the variation explained by potential physiological markers can be accounted for by non-invasive measures of growth and fatness currently used by Australian farmers must be considered.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Publisher: CSIRO
Copyright: 2006 CSIRO
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