The effects of a loin muscling quantitative trait locus (LoinMAX TM) on carcass and VIA-based traits in crossbred lambs
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LoinMAX (LM) is a quantitative trait locus (QTL), which was found to be segregated in Australian Poll Dorset sheep, and maps to the distal end of sheep chromosome 18. LM-QTL was reported to increase Musculus longissimus dorsi area and weight by 11% and 8%, respectively. The aim of this study was to comprehensively evaluate the direct effects of LM-QTL in a genetic background typical of the stratified structure of the UK sheep industry, before it can be recommended for use in the United Kingdom. Crossbred lambs, either non-carriers or carrying a single copy of LM-QTL, were produced out of Scottish Mule ewes (Bluefaced Leicester3Scottish Blackface) artificially inseminated with semen from two Poll Dorset rams that were heterozygous for LM-QTL. Unexpectedly, one of these rams was also heterozygous for a QTL that affects the overall carcass muscling (MyoMAXTM). This was accounted for by nesting MyoMAXTM status (carrier or non-carrier) within sire in the statistical analysis. Lambs were weighed and scanned by using X-ray computed tomography (CT) at an average age of 113 days. Ultrasound scan measurements, along with lamb weights, were taken at an average age of 140 days and lambs were then slaughtered. Carcasses were weighed and classified for fat cover and conformation scores, based on the Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC) carcass classification scheme, and then scanned by using a video image analysis (VIA) system. M. longissimus lumborum (MLL) width, as measured by CT scanning, was greater (P,0.05) in lambs heterozygous for LM-QTL compared with non-carriers. MLL in LM-QTL carrier lambs was also significantly deeper, as measured by both ultrasound muscle depth at the third lumbar vertebrae (13.7%; P,0.05) and CT scanning at the fifth lumbar vertebrae (13.4%; P,0.01). Consequently, MLL area, was measured by using CT scanning, was significantly higher (14.5%; P,0.01) in lambs carrying a single copy of LM-QTL compared with non-carriers. Additional traits measured by CT, such as leg muscle dimensions, average muscle density and tissue proportions, were not significantly affected by LM-QTL. LM-QTL did not significantly affect total carcass lean or fat weights or MLC conformation and fat score classifications. Using previously derived algorithms, VIA could detect a significant effect of the LM-QTL on the predicted weight of saleable meat yield in the loin primal cut (12.2%; P,0.05), but not in the other primal cuts, or the total carcass.
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