Nithdale Selecting for Meat Quality

Since 2013 the terminal sire group we are involved with, Premier Suftex,  has been involved in the South Island Genomic Calibration Flock at Duncraigen, Te Anau where a consortium of partners have been developing a genomic test for meat quality based on the DNA of the animal. The last two years we have had molecular BVs on tested ram lambs for tenderness, marbling (intra muscular fat) and pH. One of our rams, Nithdale 384/15 ranked No 1 in 2016 for overall meat quality (pictured). At the same time as this trial, Alliance and Headwaters have been running the Omega Lamb project which also has focused on meat quality and they have begun marketing lamb under the brand ‘Te Mana’. Alliance has been developing a machine at Smithfield that uses ‘hyperspectral imaging’ to measure intra muscular fat. Obviously going forward meat quality is going to become increasingly important. Not surprising, because at the end of the day, lamb is a product that consumers eat and if it is top quality they will enjoy the experience and keep eating lamb! For farmers the question is when will meat companies start differentiating between animals and pay a premium for those that are better for meat quality? As stud breeders we need to be ahead of the game and at Nithdale we are already making selection decisions which include the impact on meat quality. We want to continue productivity gains (growth and yield) while at the same time improving meat quality.