Livestock Research for Rural Development 20 (12) 2008 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD News

Citation of this paper

Growth performance and carcass quality of fattening lambs of Kivircik and Karacabey Merino breeds

M Koyuncu 

University of Uludag, Faculty of Agriculture, Department of Animal Science, 16059 Bursa, Turkey



The growth performance and carcass traits of two breeds (Kivircik and Karacabey Merino) were compared. After weaning, the growth and feed consumption of lambs fattened for 56 days were recorded. A total of 20 lambs were slaughtered and the left side of the carcasses was cut into five pieces, and the lean meat, bone, subcutaneous and intermuscular fat were determined.


Average daily weight gain in Karacabey Merino lambs was better than Kivircik lambs (P<0.01). The average weight of kidney-pelvic fat, internal fat, shoulder and ribs were higher in Karacabey Merino than Kivircik lambs. (P<0.05). The Musculus Longissimus dorsi area was bigger in Karacabey Merino than Kivircik lambs (P<0.05).

Key words: carcass characteristics, growth, Karacabey Merino lambs, Kivircik lambs


The production of sheep meat is carried out in a wide range of environments using various different production systems throughout the world. Meat from sheep accounts for approximately 18.0 % of the total red meat production in Turkey (TURKSTAT 2005). The present meat production performances of native sheep breeds are far from optimal.


One of the factors affecting economical sheep meat production is the higher growth and feed conversion efficiency of the material used. There are two alternatives for the genetic improvement of slaughter lamb production with native sheep breeds: the first is selection within the pure indigenous breeds and the second one is crossbreeding with a mutton-type sire breed (Guney and Bicer 1986).


The main native sheep breed of Thrace and Marmara region is the Kivircik (Kaymakci and Sonmez 1996). Mutton Merinos brought to Karacabey State Farm in 1934, were crossed with Kivircik sheep on this farm. At Karacabey State Farm careful selection was also applied, and as a result a new Merino type, Karacabey Merino was developed. It contains about 95 percent German Mutton Merino and 5 percent Kivircik genotype (Yalcın 1986). However, very little scientific data exists on the production efficiency and meat yields of these two breeds.


The purpose of this study was therefore to investigate growth and carcass characteristics of male lambs of the Kivircik and Karacabey Merino breed.


Materials and methods 

The experiment was conducted at the Research and Application Farm of the College of Agriculture, Uludag University, Bursa. A total of 40 Kivircik (K) ram lambs and 40 Karacabey Merino (KM) ram lambs were used to determine their growth performance All lambs were left with their dams until weaning at the age of 70 days. After weaning, Kivircik and Karacabey Merino lambs were put into different paddocks and were offered a high concentrate diet ad libitum. The concentrate contained 68 % wheat, 18 % maize, 12 % sunflower meal, 1.4 % limestone, 0.5 % salt and 0.1 % mineral and vitamin mix (DM basis). The mineral and vitamin mix supplies per kilogram of diet were: 60 mg of  Mn, 13 mg Fe, 1 mg Zn, 1.6 mg I, 1 mg Co, 60 mg Cu, 5000 IU Vitamin A, 2000 IU Vitamin D and 10 mg Vitamin E. Group concentrate consumption and individual live weights of lambs were recorded biweekly.


At the end of the 56 days fattening period ten lambs in each genotype group whose weights were the closest to average final weight of lambs of their respective breeds were chosen for subsequent carcass analysis. The lambs were transported to the slaughterhouse then fasted 12 h with free access to water and weighed immediately prior to slaughter. The lambs were slaughtered and dressed using standard commercial procedures. The dressed carcass comprised the body after removal of the head, fore and hind feet, skin and the viscera. Kidneys, kidney and pelvic fat were retained in carcass, and testes and scrotal fat were removed as described by Colomer-Rocher et al (1987). The weights of the head, skin, feet, testes, visceral organs (lungs, liver, heart, spleen and kidneys), kidney fat and intestinal fat were recorded.  After chilling the carcasses for 24 h at 4 oC, cold carcass weights were recorded. The carcasses were split down the dorsal midline. The left side was divided into five primal cuts: neck, flank, ribs, shoulder and long leg (Figure 1), and three minor cuts: kidney, kidney fat and tail as described by Colomer-Rocher et al (1987).

Figure 1.  Scheme for jointing the left side of a sheep into 5 anatomical regions
(I. Shoulder, II. Flank, III. Long leg, IV. Neck, V. Ribs)

Eye muscle area and fat depth over eye muscle were determined on the surface of the longissimus thoracis and lumborum at the level of the 12th rib. Eye muscle area was traced out on parchment paper and then measured with a planimeter. Fat depth over eye muscle was the average of three fat thickness measurements over the eye muscle measured with a caliper. Muscle, bone and fat components of the 6-12th rib-cut were determined by physical dissection (More-O’Ferrall and Timon 1977).


The mathematical model for the analysis of growth and carcass measurements included fixed effects due to treatment (Kivircik and Karacabey Merino lambs) and residual error (SAS 1998). Student’s t-test was used to determine significant differences between mean values.


Results and discussion 

The results related to initial weight, final weight, daily weight gain (ADG), calculated daily concentrate consumption (for the group) and concentrated consumption per 1 kg weight gain (FCR) during fattening of Kivircik and Karacabey Merino lambs are shown in Table 1.

Table 1.  Mean (±S.E.) for fattening performance of lambs


Kivircik (n=40)

Karacabey Merino  (n=40)


Initial weight, kg

23.4 ± 0.83

24.9 ± 1.12


Final weight, kg

36.3 ± 1.38

40.3 ± 0.93


Total weight gain, kg

12.9 ± 0.87

15.4 ± 1.08


Daily weight gain, g

230 ± 9.8

275 ± 7.4


Daily concentrate consumption, kg




Feed conversion ratio




* :P < 0.05, ** :P < 0.01, ns: not significant

Growth rates were affected by genotype depend on the feeding system. Different results were by Teixeira et al (1996) who studied the effect of crossbreeding native ewes with Suffolk and merino rams. Native breed has low genetic potential for growth. Contrarily crossbreed lambs show high growth rates in intensive feeding management. Daily weight gain in the present study (230-275 g for Kivircik and Karacabey Merino) agreement with results of Akgunduz et al (1994) who noted an ADG of 225 g for Kivircik lambs and Ak et al (1993) who recorded an ADG of 288 g for Karacabey Merino lambs subjected to intensive feeding. Feed conversion ratio (5.56-5.96) was in agreement with Kivircik and Karacabey Merino lambs (Akgunduz et al 1994 ; Ogan 2001). Corresponding estimates for the lambs ranged from 4.70 (Macit et al 2002) to 8.50 (Sen et al 2004).


Although the two breeds did not differ in the initial weight, the Karacabey Merino had a higher ADG resulting in this breed having a heavier carcass weight at slaughter. Slaughter and carcass characteristics of lambs are presented in table 2.

Table 2.  Mean (±S.E.) for slaughter and carcass characteristics of lambs


Kivircik (n=10)

Karacabey Merino  (n=10)


Carcass  analysis results




Slaughter weight, kg

35.9 ± 1.27

39.6± 0.82


Hot carcass weight, kg

16.9 ± 0.68

19.5 ± 0.42


Hot dressing percentage, %

47.1 ± 0.74

49.2 ± 0.61


Cold carcass weight, kg

16.6 ± 0.64

19.1 ± 0.56


Chilling loss, %

1.8 ± 0.35

2.1 ± 0.29


Cold dressing percentage, %

46.2 ± 0.89

48.2 ± 0.71


Head weight, kg

1.8 ± 0.10

2.0 ± 0.08


Lungs + liver weight, kg

1.6 ± 0.07

1.8 ± 0.11


Testes weight, kg

0.18 ± 0.02

0.20 ± 0.02


Feet weight, kg

0.7 ± 0.03

0.9 ± 0.05


Skin weight, kg

3.2 ± 0.18

3.9 ± 0.20


Spleen weight, kg

0.06 ± 0.01

0.09 ± 0.01


Kidney weight, kg

0.12 ± 0.01

0.14 ± 0.01


Kidney and pelvic fat, kg

0.18 ± 0.02

0.27 ± 0.03


Internal fat weight, kg

0.33 ± 0.03

0.42 ± 0.09


Longissimus dorsi area, cm2

15.4 ± 1.94

18.3 ± 1.16


Fat thickness over LD, mm

1.9 ± 0.33

2.4 ± 0.29


Carcass outs of left half carcass, kg




Neck weight

0.49 ± 0.07

0.57 ± 0.05


Shoulder weight

1.76 ± 0.09

2.04 ± 0.17


Flank weight

1.05 ± 0.12

1.18 ± 0.09


Long leg weight

3.30 ± 0.19

3.94 ± 0.27


Ribs weight

1.69 ± 0.15

1.87 ± 0.20


Carcass components, %












Subcutaneous fat




Intermuscular fat












* :P < 0.05, ** :P < 0.01, ns: not significant

The cold dressing percentages of Karacabey Merino lambs was significantly higher than that of Kivircik lambs (P<0.05). The dressing percentages obtained in this study of 46.2 and 48.2 for Kivircik and Karacabey Merino lambs are similar to findings of Akcapınar (1981), Ak et al (1993), Akgunduz et al (1994) and Ogan (2001) who reported a range in values from around 47.60-53.20 for Akkaraman, Karacabey Merino, Kivircik, Mutton Breeds x Kivircik and Sakız (Chios) x Kivircik crossbreeding lambs. These results are also consistent with those measured by Macit (2002), Perez et al (2002) and Shadnoush et al (2004). In addition internal fat differences were determined between the kidney and pelvic fat weights.  An ideal lamb should have 3 to 5 % intermuscular fat, 3 mm (0.12 in.) of subcutaneous fat evenly distributed over the entire carcass, very little intermuscular fat but completely eliminating undesirable fat deposits is probably impossible (Botkin et al 1988). The 3 mm of subcutaneous fat on an ideal lab carcass is optimum. It is often exceeded in areas such as the dock, brisket and midribs where excessive amounts of subcutaneous fat may accumulate. Dressing percentage is variable for lambs of all weights; but it is common for 50 kg lambs to yield 50% and for 57 kg lambs to yield 52%. For every 50 kg of live lamb purchased, the packer often has one additional kilogram of carcass to sell when slaughter weights are increased from 50 to 57 kg. When slaughter weight increased, carcass consumption changed with a decrease in muscle proportion and an increase kidney-pelvic and internal fat, which correspond to the standard lamb growth pattern (Wood et al 1980).


The Musculus Longissimus dorsi area of Karacabey Merino lambs was larger than those of Kivircik lambs (P<0.05). In the present study the Musculus Longissimus dorsi area was higher (15.4 and 18.3 cm2 for Kivircik and Karacabey Merino) than reported by Macit (2002) for the Morkaraman breed (13.0 cm2) slaughtered at 49.9 kg. The average fat thickness over Musculus Longissimus dorsi area was found no significant differences between breeds. The mean values of fat thickness over Musculus Longissimus dorsi area for Kivircik and Karacabey Merino lambs were lower than Macit (2002) for Morkaraman male lambs slaughtered at 40.1 kg and Bicer et al (1995) for Awassi male lambs slaughtered at 40.0 kg. It is widely accepted that the Musculus Longissimus dorsi area and the fat thickness over Musculus Longissimus dorsi are significantly and positively correlated with slaughter weight and they increase as slaughter weight increases. In addition, proportion of fat in the carcass increases, while these of bone and lean decreases with increasing slaughter weight (Moron-Fuenmayer and Clavero 1999).


There are some reports that suggest that eye muscle area decreased with the increase of metabolically energy levels (Shiran 1995). Chestnutt (1994) reported that plain of nutrition had no effect on Longissimus dorsi muscle. Kirton et al (1995) reported that breed and plain of nutrition did not influence Longissimus dorsi muscle and its depth. Similar result was reported by Shiran (1995) in Lori-Bakhtiari ram lambs.


Several author noted that the effect of breed is associated with differences in muscle distribution and consequently in joint weight proportion in the carcass (Taylor et al 1980; Wolf 1982). However, these differences are small, and sometimes insignificant. In this investigation the lean:bone ratio was similar for the Kivircik and Karacabey Merino lambs. Hopkins et al (1997), evaluating the effect of genotype on lamb carcass characteristics concluded that higher lean:bone ratio were associated with a better conformation. The proportion of higher-priced joints decreased with slaughter weight, reflecting differences in the growth pattern of different regions of the carcass (Kempster et al 1987).However lean:bone ratio did not increase significantly with slaughter weight as could be expected (Bailey et al 1985 ; Zupka et al 1996), probably because the weight range studied was too narrow for the genotypes studied. In most of the studies, genotype has not been associated with important differences in lamb meat quality (Solomon et al 1980 ; Dransfield et al 1990 ; Hopkins and Fogarty 1998 ; Kashan et al 2005).


The commercial value of carcasses is determined by the weight and proportion of the fat and muscle. In this study, all fattening performance and carcass characteristics of Karacabey Merino lambs were generally more desirable than the Kivircik lambs.


In conclusion, the results of this study document that Karacabey Merino lambs were superior than Kivircik lambs in daily weight gain and total weight gain, feed conversion and in most of the carcass characteristics.



Ak I, Tuncel, E, Koyuncu M, Filya I and Tayar M 1993 Entansif besiye alınan Merinos erkek kuzularında zorunlu haraketin besi performansına ve karkas özelliklerine etkisi  Yearbook, Vol.10, College of Agriculture, Uludag University, Bursa, Turkey, pp. 83-98


Akcapınar H 1981 Akkaraman ve Kivircik Kuzuların farklı kesim ağırlıklarında besi performansı ve karkas özelliklerinin karşılaştırılması. Yearbook, Vol.28, College of Agriculture, Ankara University, Ankara, Turkey, pp. 112-129


Akgunduz V, Ak I, Koyuncu M, Filya I, Deligozoglu F and Tuncel E 1994 Etci koyun ırklrı ile Kivircik melezi kuzuların besi performansı ve karkas özellikleri. Journal of Lalahan Livestock Research Institute 34 (3-4): 48-64


Bailey C M, Liboriussen T, Andersen H R and Andersen B B 1985 Producing beef from intact male progeny of holstein sires: feed efficiency and compositional characters. Journal of Animal Science 61: 27-35


Bicer O, Guney O and Pekel E 1995 Effect of slaughter weight on carcass characteristics of Awassi male lambs. Journal Applied Animal Research 8: 85-90


Botkin M P, Field R A and Johnson C L 1988 Sheep and Wool: Science, Production and Management. Prentice hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 07632, 451 pp.


Chestnutt D M B 1994 Effect of lamb growth rate and growth pattern on carcass fat levels. Animal Production 58: 77-85


Colomer-Rocher F, Morand-Fehr P and Kirton A H 1987 Standard methods and procedures for goat carcass evaluation, jointing and tissue separation. Livestock Production Science 17: 149-159


Dransfield E, Nute G R, Hogg B W and Walters B R 1990 carcass and eating quality of ram and castrated ram and ewe lambs. Animal Production 50: 291-299


Güney O and Biçer O 1986 Fattening performance and carcass characteristics of Awassi x Awassi, Ile de France x Awassi (Fı) and Chios x Awassi (Bı) first back cross ram lambs. World Review Animal Production 22: 63-67


Hopkins D L and Fogarty N M 1998 Diverse lamb genotypes. 2. Meat pH, colour and tenderness. Meat Science 49 (4): 477-488


Hopkins D L, Fogarty N M and Menzis D J 1997 Differences in composition, muscularity, muscle: bone ratio and cut dimensions between six lamb genotypes. Meat Science 45: 439-450


Kashan N E J, Manafi Azar G H, Afzalzadeh A and Salehi A 2005 Growth performance and carcass quality of fattening lambs from fat-tailed and tailed sheep breeds. Small Ruminant Research 60: 267-271


Kaymakçı M and Sönmez R 1996 İleri koyun yetiştiriciliği. Ege Üniv. Basımevi, Bornova, İzmir, 365pp.


Kempster A J, Croston D and Jones D W 1987 Tissue growth and development in crossbred lambs sired by ten breeds. Livestock Production Science 16, 145-162.


Kirton A H, Bennett G L, Dobbie J L, Mercer G K and Duganzich D M 1995 Effect of sire breed (Southdown, Suffolk), sex and growth path on carcass composition of cross-bred lambs. New Zealand. Journal Agriculture research 38: 105-114


Macit M 2002 Growth and carcass characteristics of male lambs of the Morkaraman breed. Small Ruminant Research 43: 191-194


Macit M, Esenbuga N and Karaoglu M 2002 Growth performance and carcass characteristics of Awassi, Morkaraman and Tushin lambs grazed on pasture and supported with concentrate. Small Ruminant Research 44: 241-246


More-O’Ferrall G J and Timon V M 1977 A comparison of eight sirebreeds for lamb production. II. Lamb carcass composition. Irish Journal Agricultural Research 16: 277-284


Moron-Fuenmayor O E and Clavero T 1999 The effect of feeding system on carcass characteristics, non-carcass components and retail cut percentages of  lambs. Small Ruminant Research 34: 57-64


Ogan M 2001 Sakız x Kivircik melezi (Fı) erkek kuzuların besi performansı ve karkas özellikleri. Journal of Lalahan Livestock Research Institute 41 (1): 59-66


Perez P, Maino M, Tomic G and Pokniak J 2002 Carcass characteristics and meat quality of Suffolk Down suckling lambs. Small Ruminant Research 44: 233-240


SAS 1998 PC SAS User’s Guide. Statistics SAS Inst. Carry, NC, USA.


Sen A R, Santra A and Karim S A 2004 carcass yield, composition and meat quality attributes of sheep and goat under semiarid conditions. Small Ruminant Research 66: 757-763


Shadnoush G H, Ghorbani G R and Edris M A 2004 Effect of different energy levels in feed and slaughter weights on carcass and chemical composition of Lori-Bakhtiari ram lambs. Small Ruminant Research 51: 243-249


Shiran A 1995 The effects of energy and protein ratio in detectable fats in Lori-Bakhtiari ram lambs. M.S. Thesis. Department of Animal Science, College of Agricultural, Tehran University, Tehran, Iran.


Solomon M B, Kemp J D, Moody W G, Ely D G and Fox J D 1980 Effect of breed and slaughter weight on physical, chemical and organoleptic properties of lamb carcasses. Journal of Animal Science 51: 1102-1107


Taylor C S, Manson M A and McClelland T H 1980 Breed and sex differences in muscle distribution in equally mature sheep. Animal Production: 30: 125-133


Teixeira A, Delfa R and Treacher T 1996 Carcass composition and body fat depots of Galego Bragançona and crossbred lambs by Suffolk and Merino Precoce sire breeds. Animal Science 63: 389-394


TURKSTAT  2005 Republic of Turkey, Prime Ministry Turkish Statistical Institute.


Wolf B T 1982 An analysis of the variation in lean tissue distribution of sheep. Animal Production 34: 257-264


Wood J D, MacFie J H, Pomeroy R W and Twinn D J 1980 Carcass composition in four sheep breeds: the importance of type of breed and stage of maturity. Animal Production 30: 135-152


Yalcın B C 1986 Sheep and Goats in Turkey. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Animal Production and Health Paper, No: 60, Rome.


Zupka Z, Jelinek P and Subrt J 1996 Allometric analysis of ram growth in the postnatal period. Zivocisna Vyroba 41: 387-390

Received 21 June 2007; Accepted 18 February 2008; Published 5 December 2008

Go to top