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Monitoring crossbreeding trends in native Tunisian sheep breeds

Bedhiaf-Romdhani, S., Djemali, M., Zaklouta, M., Iniguez, L.
Small ruminant research 2008 v.74 no.1-3 pp. 274-278
sheep, sheep breeds, livestock production, crossing, carcass characteristics, tail, body fat, decision making, questionnaires, farmers, butcher shops, consumers, consumer preferences, economic trends, demand functions, lamb meat, meat quality, sensory properties, genetic variation, temporal variation, Tunisia
Important urban market changes have been noticed in Tunisia for animals that produce thin tail carcasses in contrast to carcasses of animals with a fat tail. In response to this trend, farmers are crossing the local Barbarin (a fat-tailed breed) with thin tailed breeds (Algerian Ouled Djellel and Black Thibar). This happens while the fat tail is known as a criterion of adaptation to harsh conditions and fat-tailed animals are preferred for religious practices. The objectives of this study were to identify hidden reasons for these changes and assess the degree of crossbreeding between the Barbarin sheep and thin tailed breeds. A total of 912 surveys were conducted in three major sheep regions covering the capital (Tunis) and five departments, and including 601 sheep owners, 158 butchers and 153 consumers. The main results showed that even though raising sheep is still as an activity by itself, fattening activities (breeding-fattening or only fattening) are becoming more and more dominant and they represented 75%, 53% and 65% of the sheep activities in the capital Tunis, South East and North West regions, respectively. While breeders and consumers still prefer, in their majority (55-75%), the Barbarin fat tail lambs, butchers tend to favor thin tailed sheep because of the difficulty of selling the fat of the tail that represents up to 15% of the carcass weight. To meet the butchers' demand, farmers are shifting to thin tail breeds and crosses and in the studied areas, market changes towards thin tailed breeds were dictated by butchers' and not consumers' preference. Sensory tests revealed little difference among the three studied genotypes but showed a superiority of the fat tail lambs in tenderness, flavour and smell.