Effect of days in feedlot on growth performance and carcass characteristics of Merino, South African Mutton Merino and Dorper lambs

T.S. Brand, E.J. van der Westhuizen, D.A. van der Merwe & L.C. Hoffman
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This study investigated the effect of feedlot production on lamb growth characteristics of three common South African breeds: Merino, South African Mutton Merino (SAMM) and Dorper. Lambs were supplied with a balanced diet (16% crude protein, 9.41 MJ ME/kg feed) ad libitum and had free access to water. Lambs from each breed were divided into six groups. One group of each breed was slaughtered every three weeks until 105 days under feedlot production were reached. The weights of the lambs were recorded weekly, along with feed intake, to obtain the individual daily intake, average daily gain (ADG) and feed conversion ratio (FCR) for each lamb. The ADG for the SAMM 2007 and Dorper lambs increased throughout their production period, while that of the SAMM 2008 and Merino lambs tended to decrease with time, although the SAMM 2008 group achieved the highest ADG of 350.2 g/lamb/day of all the breeds. The Dorper and SAMM 2007 lambs had higher FCR (7.52 and 7.58, respectively). The average FCR achieved by the SAMM 2008 and Merino lambs was 5.54 and 5.14, respectively. However, the FCR of Merino and SAMM 2008 lambs increased throughout the production period. The Dorper lambs produced fatter carcasses and therefore exhibited the highest average dressing percentage of 49.7% compared with the SAMM 2007 (48.4%) and 2008 lambs (45.6%), followed by the Merino lambs (43.9%). The results confirm that the Merino is a late maturing breed that is recognised for its wool rather than meat production, and therefore exhibits weaker growth characteristics. The SAMM is a dual-purpose breed that has also been selected for growth and meat production, and therefore exhibits desirable production characteristics, while the Dorper is an early maturing breed that deposits localized fat at an earlier age as it grows, thereby producing fatter carcasses than SAMM and Merino lambs. Therefore, Dorper lambs should be slaughtered at lower live weights so that carcasses are not graded as over-fat.

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