Effects of dietary energy and protein supply on liveweight (LW) gain and gain of protein, fat and ash in the carcass, and weight and gain of non-carcass organs were determined in 118 weaned crossbred lambs from two nutritional histories at Camden, NSW in 1991. Half of the lambs were fed to achieve and maintain LW at 35 kg (LOW group) and half of the lambs were fed ad libitum until they attained 50 kg LW (HIGH group), during a preliminary period of 126 days. In the subsequent experimental period, lambs were allocated to treatments providing 500, 800, 1200 or 1500 g/day of pelleted diets (123 g crude protein, 10 MJ ME/kg dry matter). Diets at each intake contained either 0, 30, 60 or 90 g of formaldehyde-treated casein (rumen escape protein, REP). This resulted in an experiment comparing LOW and HIGH group lambs at four energy intakes, within which were four rates of inclusion of REP. During the 90-day experimental period, LOW group lambs had higher rates of gain of LW, carcass weight and all non-carcass components than did HIGH lambs (P<0·001). At any rate of carcass gain, LOW lambs contained a significantly lower proportion of fat in carcass gain than did HIGH lambs (P<0·05). After adjustment to a common carcass weight, the carcass of LOW lambs contained a significantly lower mass of fat than did that of HIGH lambs at slaughter (P<0·05).
Carcass fat gain in the experimental period was not affected by LW at the start of that period or by nutritional history once initial LW was accounted for as a covariate. Data were consistent with fat deposition being principally controlled by energy intake over the immediate pre-slaughter period. In contrast, responses to energy intake in the rate of gain of carcass muscles, ash, liver, head and feet and gut tissue were significantly greater in lambs of LOW compared to HIGH nutritional history. A significant component of this effect of nutritional history was attributable to LW differences between LOW and HIGH lambs; however, nutritional history still had a significant effect on these parameters once initial LW was accounted for as a covariate. Nutritional history may also have modified carcass composition by changing the partial efficiency of use of available energy for protein deposition without changing the partial energetic efficiency of fat deposition.