Abstract Fifty intact male Barbarine lambs were used to assess the effects of restricted feeding and re-alimentation on intake, growth and non-carcass components. Five lambs were slaughtered at the start of the trial, the remainder were randomly allocated into 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 indoors and had free access to hay and 450 g of concentrate per day (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 content (CP) of the concentrate was 160 and 210 g/kg DM for 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, sheep from the H group had a significantly higher growth rate (108 g/day) than L group (61 g/day) with M intermediate. The empty body weight (EBW) as well as carcass weight were significantly higher in H than in restricted sheep. Digestive tract components and liver weight were the same for all treatments. However, skin weight was significantly (P < 0·01) affected by dietary treatment. The heart and lungs were also heavier in H lambs than in the two other groups. Conversely, the relative weights of gut and liver as proportion of EBW increased in restricted lambs, while that of skin and red organs was not affected by diet.
In the re-alimentation period and with both CP levels, the compensating animals showed the same growth rate as the previous unrestricted ones. At the end of this period, organ weights, in both absolute and relative value, were comparable among lambs of the three nutritional histories and two CP level. The absolute and proportional daily gains were similar in all animals for visceral and external organs, but they were significantly higher in H lambs than in L and M ones for the omental and mesenteric fat and testis.