Fat thickness and measurements of the m. longissimus (‘eye’ muscle) were taken at the last rib in 350 lambs' carcasses which were fully dissected. The lambs were from two ewe breeds, Clun and Colbred, and two ram breeds, Suffolk and Hampshire, and the carcass weight range was 15 to 21kg. Castrated males and females, and singles and twins, were evenly represented.
Rib fat thickness (J) was a slightly more precise predictor of the weights of lean, subcutaneous fat and subcutaneous plus intermuscular fat, when used in a multiple regression equation along with carcass weight, than fat thickness directly above the greatest depth of the ‘eye’ muscle (C). Both of these were more precise predictors than ‘eye’ muscle width and depth. Accounting for breed, either by allowing for different intercepts or completely different regression lines, did increase the proportion of variation in tissue weights explained by carcass weight and J or C, but to a small and, it was considered, commercially unimportant extent. This was despite differences in conformation between the breeds, reflected in this work by smaller ‘eye’ muscles in the ewe than the ram breeds and also in maturity, which might have been expected to influence tissue, including fat, distribution.
The results indicate that breed differences in partition and distribution within and between the carcass fat depots in sheep are smaller than those between the carcass and intra-abdominal fat depots.