Prime lamb producers who think they can judge the breeding value of a ram by eye at a sale are naive, delegates at Hybu Cig Cymru’s autumn conference in Powys were told.

Dewi Jones, managing director of the Aberystwyth-based Innovis technology company, said 70% of appearance of a tup carefully prepared for sale was down to feeding.

He claimed that buying overfed rams without reference to their flock history encouraged inefficiency within the sheep industry.

“Don’t expect to be able to judge a ram at sale time, you need to get under the skin of the flock selling him,” said Mr Jones, the former manager of sheep research at the Welsh Institute of Rural Studies.

He urged ram buyers to visit performance recorded ram producing flocks and learn about the breeder’s selection criteria.

If they saw a ram that seemed to suit their requirements they should look at records of his dam and her relatives.

If it was not possible to buy the chosen tup on the farm he could still be bought at auction.

Unfortunately, too many pedigree ram breeders were not interested in recording and “didn’t have a clue” about what commercial flockmasters really needed, he said.

There was far too much emphasis on breed type.

Even when breeders took part in performance tests they frequently rejected a ram with a high index for growth rate and eye muscle depth on things like face colour and width of head.

This was being perpetuated by trade between pedigree breeders, but pedigree prices like 80,000 had no commercial relevance, he claimed.

“When it comes to selecting rams to make money, commercial producers should not get restricted by breed society politics.”

Emyr Jones, a Welsh Mountain Sheep breeder and deputy president of the Farmers Union of Wales, said he disagreed with everything Dewi Jones had said.

As a member of a breed improvement group that carried out performance testing he still insisted that a ram’s breed characteristics must outweigh other evaluations.

For more on the conference see page 35.