ANIMAL PRODUCTION SCIENCE, vol.56, no.5, pp.834-843, 2016 (SCI-Expanded)
Maternal nutrient intake during early- and mid-gestation can alter fetal growth and development with long-term consequences on the postnatal productivity and health of offspring. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of maternal nutrition level during mid-gestation on postnatal growth rate, carcass composition, muscle fibre characteristics and meat quality in lambs. Ewes were fed from Days 30 to 80 of gestation as follows: 100% (control group, C), 50% (undernutrition, UN) or 175% (overnutrition, ON) of their daily requirement. During the rest of the gestation, the ewes in all groups were fed 100% of their daily requirements. Birth and weaning (at Day 90) weights of lambs born to ewes in nutritional groups were similar, but slaughter weights (at Day 150) and daily weight gain during finishing period of lambs born to the UN group were lower (P < 0.05). Similarly, a decrease in weights of semitendinosus (ST), semimembranosus and gastrocnemius muscles was observed in the lambs born to the UN group (P < 0.05). Lambs born to the ON group had a higher (P < 0.05) concentration of DNA in longissimus dorsi (LD) and ST muscles than UN groups, but they had a lower (P < 0.05) total protein and other proteins concentrations in LD and ST muscles than those to C and UN groups. Protein to DNA ratio in LD and ST muscles of lambs born to ON group were lower than those to C and UN groups (P < 0.05). However, lambs born to the ON group had a higher number of Type IIA and IIB muscle fibres in ST muscles but not in LD muscles than those in the C and UN groups (P < 0.05). Additionally an increase in the number of fibres/mm(2) muscle area in lambs born to the ON group was observed in LD and ST muscles (P < 0.05). There were no significant differences between treatment groups in terms of meat quality parameters studied. This study confirms that maternal nutrition level during mid-gestation alters the postnatal growth and muscle fibre development of lambs.