Carcass characteristics and meat quality of lambs fed high levels of spineless cactus in the diet
The objective was to evaluate the effect of increasing the dietary inclusion of spineless cactus (Nopalea cochenillifera Salm Dyck) on the carcass characteristics and meat quality of confined lambs. Thirty-two male Santa Inês lambs with an average age of 140 days and an initial body weight of 20.4 ± 2.60 kg were used in this study. The lambs were housed in individual stalls for 70 days and individually fed a ration with spineless cactus included at 0, 241, 519, or 753 g/kg of dry matter (DM). The lambs were slaughtered, and characteristics of the carcass and meat were recorded and analysed. Inclusion of spineless cactus had a quadratic effect on the bodyweight at slaughter and on the empty bodyweight of the lambs. The inclusion of 500 g/kg of spineless cactus provided the highest predicted cold carcass weight (16.03 kg). There was a quadratic effect of the inclusion of spineless cactus on the weight of meat cuts and leg composition of lambs. The inclusion of spineless cactus did not influence pH, tenderness, and water-retention capacity of the meat. However, the intramuscular fat content increased 1 mg for every 10 g/kg inclusion of spineless cactus in the diet. Quadratic effects were observed of the inclusion of spineless cactus on the weights of the liver, heart, rumen, blood, skin and internal fat of the lambs. Up to 500 g/kg of spineless cactus could be included in the diet of confined lambs.