Growth and Wool quality traits of lambs in response to canola or flaxseed oil

PLOS ONE - Malau-Aduli AEO, Nguyen DV, Le HV, Nguyen QV, Otto JR, Malau-Aduli BS, Nichols PD

Type: Research Paper
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

The combinations of canola and flax seed feed supplement, sheep genetics and gender could help farmers seeking to improve their dual-purpose sheep farming income.

Correlations between growth and wool quality traits of genetically divergent Australian lambs in response to canola or flaxseed oil supplementation

What is the problem?

In the dual-purpose sheep enterprise, meat production and wool products contribute a significant percentage to economic returns. Researchers from James Cook University in Townsville investigated the response of meat growth and wool traits to canola and flaxseed oil supplementation.

What did the research involve?

Malau-Aduli et al. (2019) subjected 30 ewes and 30 lambs to controlled diet treatments where feeds were supplemented with either 2.5% or 5% canola and flax seed oils.

Physiological responses were analysed which included measuring chest girth, body length and weight gains as well as clean fleece yield, fibre diameter, fibre curvature and spinning fineness.

Correlations between wool qualities and the performance of lambs resulting from the oil supplemented diet treatments were investigated.

What were the key findings?

  • Malau-Aduli et al. (2019) found that dual-purpose sheep farmers could find optimal growth performance with no decline in wool quality when the feed is supplemented with 5% oil
  • After oil supplementation of feeds different breeds responded diffently; purebred Merino lambs had greater clean fleece yield (76.5%), and lower mean fibre diameter (17.4 μm), fibre curvature (53.5˚/mm) and spinning fineness (16.4 μm) compared with first-cross lambs studied. Furthermore, variations in fibre diameter were lesser in purebred Merinos than in Corriedale x Merino and White Suffolk x Corriedale crossbred lamb

Final comment

  • Feed supplementation with 5% canola oil in Corriedale x Merino lamb diets or 5% flaxseed oil in White Suffolk x Corriedale lamb diets considerably improved growth performance without negatively affecting wool quality.

These strategies showed a good result in muscle and wool synthesis without compromising either trait.


This paper was summarised by Luke Stafford (Bachelor of Biological Sciences with Honours – Botany and Genetics Majors (La Trobe University) and reviewed by Nickala Best (PhD Student (La Trobe University). Learn more about Luke and Nickala here.

2019 - Australia - PLOS ONE - Malau-Aduli AEO, Nguyen DV, Le HV, Nguyen QV, Otto JR, Malau-Aduli BS, Nichols PD
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