The objective of this study was to examine sex and breed effects on heat shock protein 70 (HSPA1A), blood stress indicators and meat quality attributes of lambs. A hundred male and female lambs from the Dorper (n = 50) and Merino (n = 50) breeds were used in this study. Breed and sex had a significant (p < 0.05) effect on the levels of plasma HSPA1A and lactate; where the Merino lambs had higher levels than Dorper. The female lambs had higher levels of plasma HSPA1A than male lambs. Significant sex and breed interactions (p < 0.05) on the levels of plasma HSPA1A were seen. Females had higher (p < 0.05) pHu than males. Dorper lambs had higher (p < 0.05) pH45, meat lightness, thawing loss and tougher meat the Merino breed. Significant correlations were found amongst plasma stress indicators and meat quality attributes. The results indicate that female lambs were more stressed by the pre-slaughter period than males, while the Merino had a higher physiological stress response compared to the Dorper. However, the Dorper breed produced tougher meat.
Keywords: Dorper; Merino; adenosine triphosphate; heat shock proteins; hypothalamic pituitary axis; lairage.