The Omega Lamb Project

The Omega Lamb Project is a Primary Growth Partnership between Headwaters, Alliance Group Ltd and the New Zealand Government through the Ministry for Primary Industries.

The Omega Lamb Project centres on the links between long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated (good) fats and low pH in a specially bred line of Headwaters lambs. The goal is to maximise the health giving and taste qualities of these lambs, to maximise market return in high net worth markets.

Recent discoveries about fats and their effect on animal and human health is changing scientific and consumer attitudes. Fat is now known to be important for ewe resilience. Good (polyunsaturated) fats enhance taste and succulence. These, along with Omega-3 fatty acids are highly heritable and result in human health benefits and improved eating qualities.

Post weaning, the high Omega lambs are moved to specialist chicory-based forage operations to further boost Omega-3 and intramuscular polyunsaturated fats. The lambs are typically above 40mg/100gm of Omega-3, around three times that of the typical New Zealand lamb. Intramuscular fat levels are also similarly in advance of that of mainstream New Zealand lamb, averaging above 3%.

alliance group

Headwaters’ integration with Alliance Group reflects the imperative of
loyalty in market-place innovation. Ensuring the ability to supply sufficient lambs to Alliance consistently to specification makes innovations like The Omega Lamb Project possible, and it means Alliance can invest in new quality-enhancing technology such as hyperspectral scanning. This, in turn, allows Headwaters to ensure the breeding programme reflects market needs. This degree of integration of genetics and downstream value-add is unparalleled in New Zealand.

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the genetics

Consistent with the desire to be as close as possible to the consumer,
Headwaters rams are classified in relation to their consumer characteristics.
There are three types of ram:

Ω Headwaters Omega
Σ Headwaters Sigma
Δ Headwaters Delta

Each category reflects Headwaters’ principles and provides different pathways for farmers to orient their farming system towards animal productivity as well as consumer health and taste benefits.

The common ground between the three is their high intramuscular fat and body condition scores – the critical building blocks of a more resilient ewe and