Level of nutrition and visceral organ size and metabolic activity in sheep

Br J Nutr. 1990 Sep;64(2):439-48. doi: 10.1079/bjn19900044.


Thirty-two crossbred wether lambs (initial live-weight 31 kg) were fed on a diet (metabolizable energy (ME) 12.8 MJ/kg) ad lib. (ADLIB) or restricted to maintain body-weight (MAINT) for a 21 d period. On days 0, 7, 14 and 21, four lambs per treatment were slaughtered, visceral organs weighed and tissues sampled. During the 21 d period, ME intake in ADLIB lambs increased quadratically with an average rate of live-weight gain of 425 g/d. In MAINT lambs, live weight (30 kg) was maintained, and daily ME intake (kJ/kg empty body-weight (EBW)0.75) declined (P less than 0.01) quadratically with time. Weights of liver, stomach and small intestines as a percentage of EBW were increased in ADLIB lambs and decreased by 10-33% in MAINT lambs (treatment x day, P less than 0.01). In vitro liver oxygen consumption was not affected by level of feed intake. Estimates of whole-liver O2 consumption (mmol O2/d per kg EBW) increased in ADLIB lambs and were relatively constant in MAINT lambs. These findings suggest that level of feed intake changes the relative proportion of visceral organs to body mass. In addition, the effect of level of feed intake on changes in the relative contribution of visceral organs to whole-body metabolic rate appears to be primarily a result of differences in organ size rather than tissue-specific metabolic activity.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Diet*
  • Intestines / anatomy & histology
  • Liver / anatomy & histology
  • Male
  • Organ Size / physiology
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Sheep / metabolism*
  • Stomach / anatomy & histology
  • Thyroxine / blood
  • Time Factors
  • Triiodothyronine / blood


  • Blood Glucose
  • Triiodothyronine
  • Thyroxine