Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation

Research from lamb feedlot to carcass

The growing interest in finishing lambs in a feedlot has shown the need for research to build on the opportunities and overcome constraints of the production system- and the Graham Centre is up for the challenge.

Charles Sturt University Senior Lecturer in Animal Production, Dr Shawn McGrath said one area under investigation is feedlot diets.

“The growth rates and feed conversion efficiency is important information for producers who need to ensure they are maximising growth rates of lambs to meet market specifications, but also ensuring efficient conversion to meat so that the feeding operation is viable.”

Honours research student Amy UnderwoodA recent trial has compared the growth rates of lambs fed different diets in the feedlot, including commercially available pellets.

The research is supported by an innovation connections grant as part of the Australian Government's Entrepreneurs' Programme, in partnership with Oilseeds Australia.

Charles Sturt University Bachelor of Veterinary Science student Amy Underwood has also collected samples as part of her Honours research which will investigate the calcium and phosphorus balance of lambs fed different rations.

Carrying it through the value chain

But the research doesn’t stop there with a pilot study investigating using new technology to differentiate between grass-fed lamb and lamb finished in the feedlot.

The study, supported by a Graham Centre Member Support Grant is tapping into the expertise of the meat science team at the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Centre for Red Meat and Sheep Development in Cowra.

Research lead, Dr Stephanie Fowler said grass-fed products attract a market premium over supplemented lambs but currently the industry relies on expensive and subjective audits to differentiate between the two.

“Raman spectroscopy offers a novel and untested means to improve the effectiveness and objectivity of this categorisation, using chemical ‘finger-print’ differences in fat and muscle.

“If it’s proven to be successful it could equip the lamb industry with a rapid, evidence based method for detecting supplemented grass fed lambs.

“The first step is establishing the minimum level of detection at which Raman spectroscopy can identify lambs with supplemented diets.

“That information could then be used to develop a guide to enable producers to meet grass-fed guidelines in drought while maintaining consumer confidence in grass-fed products.”

PhD student Bridgette Logan with samples to be analysedCharles Sturt University PhD student Bridgette Logan’s research has so far focused on verifying production systems of beef cattle and she’s looking forward to expanding her research into lamb.

Miss Logan has collected fat and samples from the lamb carcases and they’ll be assessed by Raman Spectroscopy in a laboratory setting.

“The assessment of different fat depots across the carcase will also be assessed to develop a chemometric model that is best suited for evaluating lamb carcases,” Miss Logan said.

With this data collected Miss Logan will be well on her way to finishing her PhD.

Miss Logan’s PhD is supported by a scholarship from the Australian Meat Processors Corporation and the Graham Centre.


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