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Meat - Next Generation Project - Range of New Meat Phenotypes

Dr Robin Jacob
Department of Agriculture & Food, Western Australia
Tel: 08 9368 3470
Email -

Photo: Information Nucleus Cowra flock
Photo: Information Nucleus Cowra flock

About the Project

The aim of this project is to make phenotypic measures of carcase, meat quality and human nutritional traits for lambs produced in the Information Nucleus (IN) flocks on behalf of that program. Additionally the Meat Science group will work with the Genetics Team (Program 4) to understand the nature of genetic and environmental influences on these traits.

Business Case

The case for this project is linked to the IN Flock - without this project the new and standard meat traits could not be measured and therefore the genetic parameters not obtained. The outcomes from this project are clearly spelt out in the milestones and describe the provision of data to Sheep Genetics (SG) for analysis and progress will be measured by the completion of slaughters and lab testing and the provision of data to Sheep Genetics.


Since 2007, the strategy for this project has been to employ the assistance of a range of teams from different agencies, to undertake a variety of tasks to collect phenotypic data from each of the 8 INF sites. These tasks have included taking measurements and collecting samples at abattoirs, measurement of samples at laboratories, compilation of data and statistical analyses of data from about 2000 lambs each year. The strategy of this project will remain largely unchanged from that which commenced in 2007, until completion, due when samples from the final and fifth drop of lambs have been processed in 2013.

There have been five abattoir teams; DPI VIC, I&I NSW, DAFWA, UNE and SARDI that organize and run slaughter programs, collect slaughter data, collect and consign samples to laboratories and report slaughter data to the Sheep Genetics database. Laboratory analytical work has been done by eight analytical laboratories; DPI VIC, I&I NSW, DAFWA, UNE, Murdoch University, CSIRO Floreat Park, CSIRO Brisbane and SARDI. Expert scientific panels from people within these groups have been formed at different times to perform a variety of specialist functions including the writing of protocols for abattoir, laboratory and database functions, analysis of data and review of tactics used in the project.

Whilst the strategy remains unchanged some key tactical changes have been made and these include:

  • Review and modification of the phenotypic trait list. Following genetic and phenotypic analyses of data from 2007 and 2008 drop lambs, traits found to have had either a low estimate for heritability or poorly low estimate for phenotypic correlation with other traits were removed from the phenotype list. Traits removed include shear force day 1 loin; collagen concentration and compression of topside. The phenotype list for 2009, 2010 and 2011 drop lambs will include for the loin: meat tenderness (shear force day 5) ultimate pH (pHu), fresh colour, colour change during simulated retail display (colour stability), concentrations of glycogen, intramuscular fat , long chain fatty acids, iron, zinc, myoglobin, and isocitrate dehydrogenase activity. For the topside shear force day 5 is the only measurement taken except for sensory evaluation from selected flocks (Kirby and Katanning 2009 and 2010 drop). A partial bone out of loin and topside for yield predictions and skin quality grades will be done for all 5 drops from 2007.
  • Inclusion of sensory testing of loin and topside samples to the phenotypic list for 1500 lambs collected from 2 sites, Katanning and Kirby, for 2 years, 2009 and 2010 drop lambs. The purpose of this is to enable investigation of the relationships between carcase, objective meat quality traits and consumer sensory assessment of eating quality.
  • Inclusion of 220 Dorper lambs from an extra site located at Narrogin WA, for each of 2 years, 2010 and 2011 drop, for characterization with the full phenotype list including sensory evaluation. This is being done to enable inclusion of Dorper lambs in the INF that has not been possible due to wool considerations on existing sites.
  • Sensory evaluation in 2011 of 220 yearling sheep (2009 drop) from 5 sites for one year. The purpose of this is to provide information to support the MSA yearling category using sheep whose half sibs have been phenotyped for meat quality as lambs.