Abstract Fifty intact male Barbarine lambs were used to assess the effects of restricted feeding and re-alimentation on carcass composition and fatty acid (FA) composition of intramuscular fat. Five lambs were slaughtered at the start of the trial; the remainder were randomly allocated to three groups. One group was offered only stubble grazing (low: L), another, also on stubble, received, indoors, an average of 80 g dry matter (DM) of soya-bean meal per day (medium: M); the third group was kept indoor and had free access to hay and 450 g of concentrate (high: H). At the end of this restriction period (70 days), five lambs per group were slaughtered. The 10 remaining animals in each group were divided into two groups receiving concentrate and hay ad libitum. The crude protein (CP) content of the concentrate was 160 and 210 g/kg DM in the two treatments, respectively. At the end of the trial all animals were slaughtered at 37·61 ± 2·05 kg live weight.
In the restriction period, bone tissue was similar in terms of mass for all diet treatments. The absolute weight of muscle and fat in carcasses was higher for unrestricted sheep (H) than for restricted ones, but L and M lambs had proportionately less fat and more muscle than those given food indoors. Intramuscular fat composition was similar for all the treatments. During this period, the carcass gain of M lambs had the highest proportion of muscle and the lowest fat concentration, which is the better composition. At the end of the compensating period, all carcasses contained the same quantity of bone and muscle, but unrestricted sheep had significantly more fat than compensating ones. So, carcasses of compensating animals contained relatively less fat (240 v. 310 g/kg) and more muscle (550 v. 500 g/kg) than unrestricted ones. The carcass gain of lambs with an earlier nutritional history on L had the highest muscle and the lowest fat concentration. The intramuscular lipid composition in terms of fatty acids showed differences between treatments. Unrestricted animals contained more C14: 0 and C16: 0 and compensating animals more C18: 2 and a higher proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and PUFA: saturated FA ratio. There were no significant differences associated with CP level during the re-alimentation period