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Sheep divergently selected for methane yield showed differences in meat fatty acid composition

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posted on 2023-05-03, 18:00 authored by Patricia Johnson, Michael AgnewMichael Agnew, Arjan JonkerArjan Jonker, Sharon HickeySharon Hickey, John McEwanJohn McEwan, Brooke BrysonBrooke Bryson, Ken Dodds, Suzanne RoweSuzanne Rowe
The purpose of this work was to investigate whether 18-month-old rams from the methane selection lines differed in their levels of soft tissue depth over the 12th rib (GR, as a proxy of carcass fatness) intramuscular fat (IMF), and the fatty acid composition of IMF. The rumen is the site of microbial biohydrogenation of consumed plant fatty acids and synthesis of unique microbial body fatty acids. It is known that there are differences in the microbiome and fermentation characteristics of sheep selected for and against methane production (methane selection lines). When comparing the high and low lines several differences were found. Rams from low-methane-yield-selection lines tended to have lower GR (P<0.06) than those from high line rams, but there was no evidence for a difference in levels of IMF between the lines (P=0.77). There were, however, many significant differences in the fatty acid composition (as a % of total fatty acids) of the IMF between the lines. The IMF from the low-methane-yield line had a significantly (P<0.05) higher proportion of branched-chain fatty acids, and fatty acids that are associated with the early stages of the biohydrogenation pathways in the rumen, specifically conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and C18:1 t11 but with less C18:0 stearic acid (the end product of biohydrogenation) and a significantly higher proportion of C16:1 t9 which is produced through β-oxidation of C18:1 t11. These results provide insight into how differences in sheep from the methane-yield selection line may influence the fatty acid composition of their fat.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


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New Zealand Society of Animal Production

Journal title

New Zealand Journal of Animal Science and Production




Johnson, P. L., Agnew, M., Jonker, A., Hickey, S. M., McEwan, J. C., Bryson, B., Dodds, K. G., & Rowe, S. J. (2021). Sheep divergently selected for methane yield showed differences in meat fatty acid composition. New Zealand Journal of Animal Science and Production, 81, 173–178.

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