Improving the efficiency of lean meat production is a major objective of producers. With cattle and, particularly, pigs, this has resulted in an increase in the use of entire male animals but not apparently so in the sheep sector, despite similar advantages. Ram lambs have traditionally been castrated for ease of management, particularly when they are ‘stored’ during winter. However, in early maturing breeds which can be finished off grass, considerable advantages may be gained from leaving ram lambs intact.
In a trial which examined growth, composition and the eating quality of meat in 15 rams and 15 ewes of the Dorset Down breed (noted for early maturity), there were clear advantages in favour of the rams. In particular, ram lambs grew 28g/day faster on average than ewes, taking 2 weeks less to achieve 35 kg live weight. At the mean carcass weight of 16.8 kg, rams contained more lean (42 g) and bone (20 g) per kg carcass weight but less subcutaneous fat (33 g), intermuscular fat (28 g) and KKCF (kidney knob and channel fat) (13 g).