Effects of genetic group, pregnancy and age on carcass traits, meat quality and fatty acid profile in female sheep
Background: Little information is available on carcass quality in nulliparous and primiparous ewes of different breeds and genetic groups. Objective: To evaluate the effect of genetic group, pregnancy, age and their interactions on carcass traits, meat quality and fatty acid profile in sheep. Methods: Eighty-five Santa Ines ewes and their crosses with Texel, Dorper and Ile de France, aged 12 month were bred with White Dorper rams to assess the influence of pregnancy on carcass composition and meat quality. After weaning, all ewes (nulliparous and primiparous) were fattened for slaughter at 21 months of age. A further 24 six to twenty one-month-old female lambs from the same genetic groups were included in the analysis to determine the fatty acid profile. Results: Genetic group affected muscle and fat weight as well as the eye muscle length. Fat weight, muscle and fat ratios, subcutaneous fat thickness and cooking loss were affected by pregnancy with nulliparous females being fatter. Meat purpose breeds such as Dorper, Texel and Ile de France showed better meat quality compared to the Santa Ines hair breed. Of the 19 identified fatty acids, saturated were present in greater quantities, especially stearic and palmitic. Omega-6 content was influenced by age and pregnancy. Conclusions: Younger and nulliparous females have better carcass quality in terms of fatty acid composition.
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