Effect of diets containing n-3 fatty acids on muscle long-chain n-3 fatty acid content in lambs fed low-and medium-quality roughage diets

E. N. Ponnampalam, A. J. Sinclair, A. R. Egan, S. J. Blakeley, B. J. Leury

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In two experiments, each with 32 crossbred ([Merino × Border Leicester] × Poll Dorset) wether lambs (26 to 33 kg weight range), animals were randomly assigned to one of four treatments. A mixture of lucerne chaff:oaten chaff was used as a basal diet, offered in different ratios. Animals were allowed to consume on a free-access basis in Exp. 1 or 90% of ad libitum intake in Exp. 2 in order to provide a low-(6.5 MJ ME/d) and medium-(9.5 MJ ME/d) quality basal diet, respectively. Isoenergetic amounts of lipid supplements, fish meal (80 g DM), canola meal (84 g DM), and soy meal (75 g DM) were tested in Exp. 1. In Exp. 2, fish meal (9% DM), unprotected rapeseed (7% DM), and protected canola seed (6% DM) were fed as supplements. At the end of 53-d (Exp. 1) or 46-d (Exp. 2) experimental periods, lambs were slaughtered at a commercial abattoir and at 24 h postmortem longissimus thoracis (LT) muscle was collected for the analysis of fatty acid (FA) composition of structural phospholipid and storage triglyceride fractions. Fish meal diet increased LT muscle long-chain n-3 FA content by 27% (P < 0.02) in Exp. 1 and 30% (P < 0.001) in Exp. 2 compared with lambs fed the basal diet, but fish meal decreased (P < 0.01) the n-6 FA content only in Exp. 1. Soy meal and protected canola seed diets increased (P < 0.01) LT muscle n-6 FA content but did not affect long-chain n-3 FA content. Longissimus thoracis muscle long-chain n-3 FA were mainly deposited in structural phospholipid, rather than in storage triglyceride. In both Exp. 1 and Exp. 2, the ratio of n-6:n-3 FA in LT muscle was lowest (P < 0.01) in lambs fed fish meal supplement compared with all other treatments. Protected canola seed diet increased the ratio of n-6:n-3 FA (P < 0.01) and PUFA:saturated fatty acid (P < 0.03) content from those animals fed the basal, fish meal, and unprotected rapeseed diets in Exp. 2. This was due to an increase in muscle n-6 FA content, mainly linoleic acid, of both phospholipid (P < 0.001) and triglyceride (P < 0.01) fractions and not to an increase in muscle n-3 FA content. The results indicate that by feeding fish meal supplement, the essential n-3 FA can be increased while lowering the ratio of n-6:n-3 content in lamb meat to an extent that could affect nutritional value, attractiveness, and the economic value of meat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)698-706
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Food Supplements
  • Lambs
  • Muscles
  • Phospholipids
  • Roughage
  • Unsaturated Fatty Acids

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