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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 47(10)

Genotype and gender effects on sheep limb bone growth and maturation: selection for loin depth causes bone hypotrophy

M. A. Cake A B D, M. D. Boyce A B, G. E. Gardner A B, D. L. Hopkins A C, D. W. Pethick A B

A Australian Sheep Industry Cooperative Research Centre, Armidale, NSW 2350, Australia.
B School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Murdoch University, Perth, WA 6150, Australia.
C NSW Department of Primary Industries, Centre for Sheep Meat Development, Cowra, NSW 2794, Australia.
D Corresponding author. Email: mcake@murdoch.edu.au
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This study aimed to compare limb bone growth between offspring of typical crosses used in Australian prime lamb production. Limb bones from sheep of five genotypes – Merino (M × M), Border Leicester sire × Merino (BL × M), Poll Dorset sires selected for growth × Merino (PDg × M), Poll Dorset sires selected for eye muscle depth (PDm × M) × Merino, or second cross (PDg × BLM) – at four time points from 4 to 22 months of age (n = 593) were dissected, measured and weighed. Growth curves were fitted within genotype groups and used to compare (i) overall limb bone growth in terms of length and weight, (ii) differences in allometric growth coefficients for individual bones, (iii) relative limb bone proportions, and (iv) maturity proportion. Results showed two distinct phenotypes in terms of limb bone growth: (i) relative bone hypotrophy of lambs from PDm × M, suggesting that selection for loin depth (PEMD EBV) may be linked with smaller limb size and that their higher muscle : bone ratio may be due to a relative decrease in bone rather than increase muscle weight; and (ii) Merinos were found to have comparable limb length to terminal sire crosses, although distal limb elements were proportionately longer at the expense of the proximal segments that are associated larger muscles. There was a general lack of major differences in bone growth between sheep very different in other production traits, particularly when compared allometrically. Thus, differences in bone growth, proportion or skeletal maturation were greater between ewes and wethers than between these divergent genotypes. PDm × M and BL × M were found to be earlier maturing in terms of limb length, although the bone mineral profile (magnesium content) of PDm × M was suggestive of relative physiological immaturity.

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