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Monday 22 October 2018

Farmers put sheep in CT scanners to help breed tastier chops

Researchers are testing whether CT scanners can determine which animals will produce the best meat
Researchers are testing whether CT scanners can determine which animals will produce the best meat

Sarah Knapton

Choosing the best ram for breeding used to be a case of checking for foot rot, good lamb weight and a vigorous countenance. 

But now UK farmers are turning to modern technology to find the perfect animals to produce the healthiest flock.

Researchers at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and Scotland’s Rural College have been testing whether CT scanners can determine which animals will produce the best meat.

The method causes no harm to the rams, and measures the fat and muscle content so that only individuals with the healthiest genes will be chosen for future breeding.

Kirsty McLean, manager of the college's CT Scanning Unit, said: “The CT machines are accurate enough to measure everything from spine length, to eye muscle area, to intramuscular fat levels – all of which is taken into account when working out how to produce the best-tasting meat.

“We’re then able to provide breeders with Estimated Breeding Values for these traits to help choose the best rams, and ultimately the best in quality for the product that ends up on your plate.”

The industry is already using technologies such as video image analysis, which can detect and quantify carcass composition and meat distribution,  but the new scans allow for similar tests on live animals.

Previously AHDB has also developed robots to pick vegetables and microchipping slugs to track their trails.

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Kim Matthews, head of animal breeding and product quality at the AHDB, said: “The farming community works tirelessly to provide the best in sustainable quality.

“Our work is focused on delivering genetic evaluations that will enable the industry to become more efficient and provide high quality produce.

“Whilst CT scanning might appear a novel technology, future advancements hold great potential for the industry. We have a role to help the public understand how innovation is used to deliver the products that they pick up on the shelves.”

The ADHB was established in 2008 to support the meat and livestock horticulture, milk and potato industry in Great Britain as well as cereals and oilseeds in the UK.

Telegraph.co.uk

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