Farmers put sheep in CT scanners to help breed tastier chops
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.