A 2 × 3 factorial trial designed to investigate the effects of castration and three diets on growth and body composition of 30 male Dorset Horn × (Border Leicester × Merino) lambs is described. The three diets were: (a) a standard ration of equal weights of lucerne chaff and pelleted concentrates; (b) a similar ration to (a) plus 7·5% by weight of lipid (peanut oil and tallow); (c) a greater ration of (a) calculated to be isocaloric for digestible energy with diet (b).
At the beginning of the trial a group of 40 lambs (20 rams, 20 wethers) were shorn and five rams and five wethers were selected at random and slaughtered to establish initial body composition. The remaining 30 lambs, 15 rams and 15 wethers aged about 22 weeks and having mean weights of 33·0 kg (rams) and 31·2 kg (wethers), were randomly divided within sex into three groups and allocated to the three diets for 92 days. At the end of this period the lambs were again shorn, and then slaughtered and dressed.
During the trial, rams gained significantly (P < 0·001) more weight than wethers, and lambs on diet (a) gained significantly (P < 0·01) less weight than those on (b) and (c). Weight gains on the latter two diets were similar. Diet generally had little effect on body composition, although there was a tendency, within sexes, for lambs on diet (b) to have a greater fat content than those on the other diets. Rams had significantly greater carcass weights (P < 0·01), head percentage (P < 0·001) and various m. longissimus dorsi dimensions than wethers, but significantly less fat in all the locations measured, including a lower percentage of chemically extractible fat in the offals and carcasses. Estimations of the energy stored in the wool-free body during the trial indicated that wethers stored significantly more energy in the form of fat than rams (P < 0·001), but that rams stored significantly more non-fat energy than wethers (P < 0·001). It is concluded that a maximum growth rate exists for the non-fat body, and that it is higher in rams than wethers. Thus the addition of dietary lipid (which increases energy intake with comparatively small increases in weight or volume of feed), is more likely to promote fat deposition in wethers, which have a lower maximum capacity for non-fat storage, than in rams.