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This study was conducted to determine the growth performance, carcass characteristics and meat quality of rams fed diets containing water-washed neem (Azadirachta indica) fruits with or without baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) supplementation. Twelve West African Dwarf (WAD) rams (19.88±3.37kg) were assigned to one of three dietary groups with 4 animals per group in a complete randomized design. Each group received a total mixed ration with one of the following: YS: (5.0g of yeast per animal per day); NF: (5.0% water-washed neem fruit inclusion in the diet) and YS/NF: (5.0% water-washed neem fruit inclusion in the diet and 5.0g of yeast per animal per day). The animals were fed at 5% of their body weight. At the end of the 56 days feeding trial, three animals per treatment were slaughtered after being starved for 16 hours and evaluated for carcass characteristics and meat quality. Average daily weight gain, average daily feed intake and feed efficiency were significantly (P<0.05) higher in YS/NF compared to other treatments. Ribeye area was higher (P<0.05) in NF than YS. The dressing percentage, percentage of neck, brisket, leg and meat were not significantly (P>0.05) affected by the treatments. Water-washed neem fruits significantly (P<0.05) increased the percentage of flank and rack. The proportion of bone was similar in YS and YS/NF but significantly (P<0.05) higher than NF. Meat-bone ratio was similar in YS and YS/NF but significantly (P<0.05) lower than NF. Significant (P<0.05) reduction was observed in the proportion of fat. No significant (P>0.05) difference was observed in the proportion of meat in all the treatments. There were no significant (P<0.05) differences in meat marbling, cold loss and thermal shortening across the treatments except thermal loss which was lowest in NF. Cold shortening was similar in NF and YS/NF but higher (P<0.05) than YS. Water holding capacity was similar in YS and YS/NF but higher than NF. NF, though similar to YS was on the overall more acceptable (P<0.05) than YS/NF. The treatments did not significantly (P>0.05) affect the DM, CP and ash content of the meat. However, ether extract and cholesterol components were similar in NF and YS/NF but significantly lower (P<0.05) than YS. These results showed that the inclusion of water-washed neem fruit and baker’s yeast in the diet of WAD rams impacted positively on growth performance, carcass characteristics and meat quality of rams without any negative effect except for low water holding capacity which may influence the type of meat product such meat can be used for.
Key words: Yeast, water-washed neem fruit, performance, carcass characteristics, meat qualities, West African Dwarf ram.