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Effects of sodium chloride and betaine on hydration status of lambs at slaughter

Pearce, K.L., Masters, D.G., Jacob, R.H., Hopkins, D.L. and Pethick, D.W.ORCID: 0000-0002-3255-7677 (2008) Effects of sodium chloride and betaine on hydration status of lambs at slaughter. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 48 (9). pp. 1194-1200.

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Under commercial conditions in Australia, lambs are often dehydrated at slaughter despite access to water at the abattoir. Dehydration results in reduced fluid content of meat, which causes liveweight and carcass weight loss. Two experiments evaluated hydration status and carcass characteristics in lambs fed increased levels of sodium chloride (salt) and/or betaine before slaughter. Both experiments were 2 × 2 factorial designs with two levels of salt added [0 and 50 g/kg dry matter (DM)] and two levels of betaine added (0 and 6.7 g/kg DM) to the diets. The treatment diets were introduced to sheep over a 7–8-day period and then fed at 1.5 kg/day for the following 7 days. In experiment 1, 96 Poll Dorset–Merino cross wether lambs (45.9 ± 0.17 kg) were fed in individual pens and in experiment 2, 204 Merino wether lambs (43.1 ± 0.35 kg) were fed in group pens. In the first experiment, water and feed were withheld from the end of the treatment feeding period until slaughter 48 h later. In the second experiment, feed and water were withheld for the first 24 h after treatment but water was available for the next 24 h immediately before slaughter. In both experiments, consumption of the high salt diet decreased urine specific gravity and osmolarity at the end of the feeding period and after 24 h without access to water. This indicates an improved hydration status at this time. However, the difference in hydration status related to feeding salt declined during the 48-h lairage period and there were no significant differences in hot carcass weight or muscle DM among groups at slaughter. It could be concluded from this result that the addition of salt has little commercial value; however, this may not be the case. The lambs in experiment 2 did not behave according to industry expectations. They all drank water in the last 24 h in lairage and none of the groups showed severe dehydration. Further research is justified to determine if the lambs fed the diets with no added salt drunk in lairage as a learned response from the lambs fed salt and, if so, whether this can be developed into a commercial strategy. Feeding betaine did not result in any changes in hydration status or carcass characteristics.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: 2008 CSIRO
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