Muscling in on sheep industry

A four-year project into the genetic factors that affect the lean meat content of sheep will aim to breed higher value sheep.

The Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) will lead the project that will evaluate, through DNA blood testing, the effects of three specific 'muscling' segments of chromosomes which contain naturally occurring mutations that affect muscle growth. These are known as quality trait loci (QTL).

Dr Lutz Bunger is heading the research team at SAC. She said: "In recent years considerable research effort has gone into identifying exploitable QTLs for important production traits across the different livestock species. The challenge now is to successfully integrate these QTLs into practical livestock improvement programmes to the benefit of the whole supply chain and ultimately consumers."

The project is jointly funded by Defra, The English Beef & Lamb Executive, Hybu Cig Cymru/ Meat Promotion Wales, The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Quality Meat Scotland, Livestock and Meat Commission for Northern Ireland, the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers and Catapult Systems Ltd through the Sustainable Livestock Production LINK programme.

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