THE great thing about ewe competitions in a field day format is the exchange of ideas and management tools which have really come to the fore since the years of the millennium drought from 2002 and also 2017 to 2019.
That's according to Narrandera sheep classer Michael Elmes of Australian and New Zealand fame.
"The drought taught us a lot of lessons," Mr Elmes said.
"We actually learnt how to feed sheep for production and that production turned adversity into profitability.
"These competitions are a form of benchmarking - same area, same climate, every property is basically in the same zone and pretty-well equal apart from the difference in soil type and possible rainfall.
"You see flocks of similar bloodlines but very different in type, and that's understandable as it's how one focusses to what their end-goal is."
However, Mr Elmes said whether it was ewe comps or wether trials, the fellows who always buy the best rams, or the rams they can most afford, are usually the flocks that win.
"A cheap ram doesn't guarantee you a living," he said.
Many people will recognise the best flocks are those that are always classed, according to Mr Elmes. He believes classers need to be independent with no affiliation with any sheep.
If it pays, it stays, if it doesn't, it goes, is his motto.
"I don't make any excuses for one animal over another," he said.
"But it doesn't matter how well a flock is classed if you are not getting the rams to suit those ewes.
"That is critical, because the rams either influence or de-influence the progress of a flock.
"Classers like myself can buy rams from any stud."
While Mr Elmes classes in three states and New Zealand, his expertise gained awards in several maiden ewe competitions including West Wyalong, Condobolin's Don Brown and Lake Cargelligo this year.
But it was at the Lake Cargelligo fixture this year where he set his trifecta first, second and third placings for the fourth time.
It was also the 12th year his classed flocks had won the competition.
A week or two later, flocks he classed won and placed third in the West Wyalong fixture.
"That's what an independent classer is all about,' he said.
"I can cross boundaries and cross bloodlines. Not everybody wants to drive Fords or Holdens."
A breeder prefers to breed a type he choses and the classer is there to help him achieve his goal, he said.
"It's another pair of eyes," he said.
After asking a new client to define his or her breeding objectives, he narrows it down to five things.
"If you are going to cut firewood you go for the biggest tree and leave the suckers behind," Mr Elmes said.
"So go for the main drivers that will give you a business.- increase fleece weight or reduce micron, maintain reproductive rates for starters. Reproductive rates are a direct correlation to body weight."
It takes a full generation of sheep to change direction. That's five to six years, so the worst thing that can happen with people is a change in direction three years down the track, he said.
When it comes to shearers, Mr Elmes said a good shearer will not complain about shearing good sheep.
"They will acknowledge good sheep and want to return to that property," he said.
Back to ewe comps, Mr Elmes said he knew a breeder who got an absolute mauling by a judge at Hay one time.
"He asked me if I heard the comments and I said yes," he said.
"Righty'o, you fix it.
"Some years later he ended up winning time and time again, so people can learn and strive for betterment.
"Everyone can take home something out of a day's trip around eight or nine commercial flocks.
"It's a matter of opening your mind and being prepared to learn."