Meat quality traits and muscle composition of cows differing in lactation performance
Abstract. Beef and dairy cows differ in the way in which they utilise nutrients and in accretion or mobilisation of body reserves during lactation. Thus far, little is known about the impact of lactation performance on body composition, meat quality, and the related muscle structure of cows with a defined, combined beef and dairy genetic background. In the described experiment, 50 F2 cows, originating from mating Charolais bulls to German Holstein cows and a following intercross of F1 individuals, were slaughtered during the second lactation, 30 days after calving. Cows were assigned to 3 groups, each containing representatives of 3 families, according to lactation performance. Standard carcass and meat quality traits were determined. Additionally, samples from longissimus muscle were investigated by histology and computer image analysis for muscle fibre profile, intramuscular fat cell size, and marbling traits. Subcutaneous fat cell size was measured to estimate the impact of lactation on body fat reserves. The results suggest no influence of the duration of the first lactation on body composition, meat quality or muscle structure. However, the amount of milk per day influenced body weight, body composition, and marbling traits. Relationships between traits were low, but showed consistently that increasing milk yield was negatively correlated with tissue accretion. Changes of muscle fibre and fat cell profile, indicating protein or fat mobilisation by lactation, could not be detected. In the presented study, lactation had only minor consequences for meat quality.