Body composition of agricultural animals is mainly determined by the stage of growth at which the animals are slaughtered. Large-mature-size animals are leaner and grow faster and more efficiently to acceptable slaughter weights than small-mature-size animals. Large-mature-size breeding stock require more nutrients for maintenance, so efficient production systems breed small-to moderate-mature-size females to large-mature-size terminal sires to produce animals for slaughter. In cattle and sheep, obvious differences in muscle shape do not translate into differences in muscle-weight distribution, although there are some genetic exceptions that may be useful in the future if associated problems in management and meat toughness can be solved. Animal scientists need to look for additional opportunities to improve body composition of agricultural animals independently of mature size.
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