Rams must last longer and provide commercial producers with good value, sheep consultant Lesley Stubbings told the conference.

“Replacement costs are the biggest variable cost in commercial flocks.

On average, a lowland flock of Mule-type ewes can expect to have to cover an annual charge of £8-14 a ewe,” said Ms Stubbings.

She told delegates ram costs were a significant part of this annual expense and undoubtedly influenced buyers’ reluctance to invest in high genetic value sires.

“A high index shearling ram costing £450 and used on 140 ewes achieving a lambing percentage of 150% would add £7.50 to the annual ewe replacement cost.

That figure is slashed to £1.88 when the ram lasts for four years.”

Breeders should look to improve disease resistance for conditions such as footrot to fit in with easier managed sheep systems.

“Other traits such as reduced dagginess will be important in these systems.

Farmers need sheep which thrive in systems with reduced labour and vet and medicine costs.”