Optimising lamb yield and eating quality

ADVANCES in DNA breeding technologies are creating tools to safeguard Australian lamb and sheepmeat’s reputation for consumer satisfaction by enabling producers and processors to optimise production efficiency while still maintaining eating quality.
Nanjing Night Net

MLA’s strategic program development and evaluation manager Rob Banks said the average Australian lamb was now heavier and leaner than before, but warned against increasing yield without maintaining eating quality.

Dr Banks said producers would be able to use new DNA breeding values for eating quality traits to balance selection for yield and to mitigate any such potential losses.

“The industry is currently increasing yield by approximately 0.25 per cent a year and we can expect this rate of gain to double. New breeding values to increase yield by approximately 0.5pc per year based on DNA testing are set to be rolled out within the next 12 months,” he said.

“But the threat in selecting for higher yielding lambs is that consumer satisfaction scores can conversely drop, as a heavy emphasis on lean meat yield has a direct negative impact on the tenderness of meat.”

“We now have the tools to more rapidly and accurately select the sires that are good for yield and at the same time can maintain or improve product quality,” he said.

Dr Banks said producers could use DNA breeding values for previously hard-to-measure eating quality traits – such as intramuscular fat and shear force – to ensure vital consumer lamb quality attributes such as tenderness and taste are retained or improved.

A new phase of work is now underway to bring producers, processors and retailers together to ensure the use of these new genetic tools on farm can translate to continued benefits across the supply chain and back to the consumer.

Further work is also being done to provide sheep breeders with tools that ensure the quality attributes of lamb continue to meet consumer expectations, with new breeding values for omega-3, iron and zinc.

The research work underpinning this development is carried out through the Sheep CRC, working closely with Sheep Genetics, and building on the earlier MLA-AWI Sheep Genomics R&D program.

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