Dafydd Owen, Coed Coch, Abergele, North Wales

About the farm

Coed Coch Farm, Abergele is a 900-acre farm in North Wales. The farm includes 300 acres of lowland grazing and 600 acres of higher ground (LFA improved). The highest point on the farm is 1200ft above sea level. 

The farm has very thin soil, it is free draining and therefore quite dry land.

Coed Coch Farm has had sheep on it since the 1970s with the current owner, previously it was a large Welsh Mountain pony stud, but also had sheep. Beef cattle were kept at the farm from the 1970’s until the farming partnership started 6 years ago. 

Today there are 2000 Romney ewes on the farm and 120 contract grazed dairy heifers during the summer months.

The Romney ewes are managed in two flocks: the A Flock (1400 ewes) on the higher ground are bred to the Romney tup, while the B flock (600 ewes) on lower ground are bred to a Lleyn tup. Four hundred ewe lambs from the A flock are selected as replacements, whilst the B flock ewe lambs are sold for breeding in August. All males and non-breeding ewe lambs are sold deadweight to ABP or as stores.

Dafydd Owen joined the farming partnership in November 2022 as the shepherd at Coed Coch Farm. He has been a member of Pasture for Life for 2 years. 

The farm is not currently PfL certified but are considering this as a future option.

Pasture management

Coed Coch has a mixture of rotational and permanent pasture (PP). The rotational areas are sown to winter forage crops such as stubble turnips or swedes then a new ley, previously this has mostly been PRG/WC leys, but they are now putting more herbal leys in, 40 acres this year. To reduce costs and disturbing the soil, they are also moving away from winter forage crops to deferred grazing and bales. These management changes reduce ploughing and reseeding. Dafydd says the herbal leys have had a slow start due to dry weather but are looking better now. They make some conserved forage, which is left in field, and bale grazed, so not taking anything away from the fields. They may move to buying in conserved forage if needed in future rather than homemade, depending on grazing availability/grass growth etc.

The sheep mobs are moved every 3-4 days depending on the area grazed. The business is investing significantly in electric fencing infrastructure and water supply to enable the reduction of grazing area/increase impact of sheep. There are lots of large areas of parkland and higher ground to split up, so to reduce labour requirement, the intention is to set up paddocks for the whole grazing season rather than spending too much time moving paddock fences regularly. As paddock infrastructure is improved Dafydd is reducing the number of sheep groups on the farm by mobbing them up into larger groups. 

During the winter, forage crops are strip grazed, moving every 3-4 days, until a couple of weeks before lambing when everything is set stocked across the farm. Set stocking rate for twins at lambing is 2.5-3 ewes/acre, and singles is 5 ewes/acre. 1000 ewes go away to a local farm on winter tack with rams.

The in-lamb ewes are in mobs of roughly 500 up to scanning, then below target body condition ewes will be separated into one mob and any over condition singles will be kept as another mob, if there are any. 

4-5 weeks after the end of lambing, Dafydd will mob up singles together in groups of no more than 400 ewes and twins together in groups of no more than 250 ewes. The twins are kept separately so that Dafydd can pick replacement ewes and rams from them at weaning.

Dafydd calculates the area of field required to the mob demand and gives the newest re-seeds to the twin rearing mobs. 

The higher ground is split by a road, so to avoid having to cross the road on a regular basis, Dafydd splits the A Flock and keeps a group of singles and twins on each side of the road and rotates them on those blocks. 


The dairy heifers are also on a block of land on the higher ground. Dafydd has split their fields up more this year and hopes to move them around the farm more in future. 

The B Flock, on the lower ground, usually consists of 1 group of twins and 1 group of singles. The 400 breeding replacements also graze the lower ground.


The flock lambed from April 8th this year, pushed back from end March to coincide better with grass availability at lambing. Tups go in for 5 weeks, most lambed in three weeks, no teasers used. They lamb outdoors, Dafydd goes round them twice a day and started mobbing up about 4 weeks after lambing. He also had another person helping with the lowland flock. The lambing percentage is normally around 160%, although it was 140% last year due to a challenging summer for grass availability in 2022.

Ewe nutrition

The flock has not received any concentrates for 4 years. No feed blocks are given. Regular body condition scoring (BCS) is used to monitor ewe condition. Ewes are grazed on forage crops over winter, until shortly before lambing, given a new area every 3-4 days. Thin ewes are managed separately and are either kept on deferred grazing with bales or given a bigger area of forage crops. 

They trialled one field as deferred grazing (old permanent pasture) last year, where they put the thinnest ewes. Dafydd was pleased with the results so he’s planning to do more deferred grazing this year. The trial field had 3700t/DM/ha cover and samples were nutritionally analysed, the results were similar in minerals and energy to medium quality silage. This year, if they get the weather for baling hay, it will be left in the fields for bale grazing over winter with deferred grazing on PRG/WC fields. Dafydd moves the sheep every 2-3 days unless very tall grass which will need daily moves. He finds that managing the sward height and grass going to head is easier in the PP fields rather than the new PRG/WC leys.


Until this year, ewes routinely received a trace element dose of cobalt, selenium and copper, this year however, Dafydd is blood testing groups of ewes before drenching to assess their trace element status. The drench is usually given pre tupping and scanning time. 

Managing youngstock nutrition

There were 800 lambs on farm when Dafydd arrived in November 2022 (400 went as stores, 250 as fat and he kept the ones that weren’t far from finishing). A future aim is to have a cutoff point, perhaps mid-September and have all lambs gone by then either as fat, breeding ewe lambs or stores. They are intending to sell breeding ewe lambs and stores direct to customers in large lots rather than selling at local markets.

After weaning, lambs go onto herbal leys, then grassland fields. Moved every 3-4 days. Dafydd is planning to sell as they fatten this year rather than when big groups are ready, some singles have gone straight off mothers already. Romneys killing out % is better when they are younger because wool growth has an impact as they get older. Ram lambs are kept entire so it’s better to get these gone sooner too. 

The lambs are normally drenched at weaning with a trace element supplement, these will also be blood tested beforehand this year. May explore bolusing in future for time saving benefits and duration of supplement. 

Parasite management

FEC is used frequently to inform worming need. Dafydd spot drenches anything that looks poor or dirty. All lambs receive a dose during the regional nematodirus risk period. Ewes are not wormed.

External parasites are an issue with Romneys due to their heavy fleece. The ewes are dagged pre-lambing. Clik is administered to lambs at 6 weeks. Replacement ewe lambs were sheared as lambs in August, and they didn’t have Clik last year, most were clean, but a few had maggots so those are being moved to the B flock to try and have a genetic influence on maggot susceptibility.

Flock monitoring and breeding selection

BCS is used to keep eye on ewe condition, Dafydd’s focus is on getting ewes into the right condition going into winter/tupping time. 

Any prolapses and mastitis cases are culled, anything requiring any assistance on the higher ground is moved down to the B flock on lower ground to ensure breeding replacements are not selected from them. Lameness isn’t a big issue on the farm. 

Heptavac/Bravoxin vaccination is used in the flock, but no other vaccines are used.

Data collection is an important management tool at Coed Coch, some of the data measurements listed below are also used as the partnership’s key performance indicators:

BCS – recorded three times per year at tupping, scanning and weaning.

Scanning percentage, lamb mortality, number of lambs reared, % fall from scanning to sold.

Lamb average weight at weaning, days to slaughter, daily liveweight gain.

Kg of lamb produced per ewe mated.

Pasture measurements – average farm cover is measured every month. The heifer block is measured every two weeks.

Soil testing has been carried out on the farm. Dafydd has also signed up to Soilmentor and intends to start using this platform to record soil health.


FEC, disease monitoring, foot scoring, and trace element testing.

Selling produce

All fat lambs are sold to ABP who collect from the farm. They do not require belly clipping and do not charge for this in the abattoir which is a labour/cost saving benefit. Dafydd aims for 40Kgs, but anything fat over 35kg is going at the moment to mitigate against falling prices as season progresses and reduce grazing pressure on farm.

Cull ewes are sold at the local market. 

Stores and breeding ewe lambs are sold direct to customer.

Wool is considered a by-product but it did pay for the shearing contractors last year. They get a slight premium due to quantity produced.


The business structure:

Coed Coch Farms Ltd is a share farming company established in 2016. The company owns the livestock and machinery/equipment (which is limited to a mobile sheep handling kit, utility vehicle and electric fencing). The land is owned by Harry who is also a director and 50% shareholder in the company. A share of 45% is held by Rhys who is responsible for strategic management and administration, while Dafydd owns 5% of the company and is responsible for the labour and day to day management. Dafydd has the opportunity to increase his share and take on more management responsibility during the next five years.

No subsidies go to company. 

Harry (landowner) gets maintenance fee for land and SFP. 

Harry pays for any permanent work such as stock fencing etc. 

Close communication is maintained between the three partners in monthly, minuted Board Meetings where financial budgets, KPI’s and pasture supply and demand are monitored closely. 

The company made losses during the first two years, mainly due to transition factors but have been profitable since and have achieved their target of exceeding a 10% return on equity.

Inputs have been reduced year upon year. No purchased concentrates have been fed over the last 4 years and no inorganic fertiliser has been used (other than to establish forage crops) for three years.

Further cost reduction is planned with the phasing out of forage crops and increased use of stockpiled grass as winter feed.

The main financial KPI is Variable Cost as a % of Gross Revenue. This is regularly at or below 35%

They do not currently receive any premium for the product above market price, but are interested in exploring opportunities. 

Biodiversity on the farm

Dafydd believes that if the management of sheep/grazing is right they benefit sward diversity and wildlife, and he’s hoping to see this develop over time at Coed Coch. There is a shoot on farm which provides cover crops, gorse, fenced ditches and other features that benefit wildlife on the farm, however, Dafydd would like to do more and hopes the Sustainable Farming Scheme will allow funding for this, for example, improving hedgerows to provide food and habitat for wildlife but also shelter and shade for stock.

Benefits and challenges of the sheep system

When the company was established in 2016, it initially decided on a sheep only approach to simplify the system, reduce labour requirements and eliminate the need for housing and TB risks. Cattle have been reintroduced over the last 2 years by the introduction of contract reared dairy bulling heifers to graze for six months of the year. Grazing cattle on an intensive rotational grazing system has had a positive impact on pasture growth and composition and on soil health. 

Dafydd enjoys working with sheep because he feels they are easier to handle than cattle and he enjoys improving flock genetics.

One of the main challenges for the sheep enterprise is infrastructure, there is a lot of open parkland and large areas on the higher ground that need fencing into smaller areas for effective mob grazing. Providing water supply across the farm to the paddocks is another infrastructure challenge, they have mains but low pressure, so are considering a borehole. To mitigate high labour requirement for fencing and batteries etc Dafydd is trying to set up grazing areas for whole season and just take down for lambing period. The partnership is investing in a lot more kit to help with this.

Suggestions for anyone thinking about a pasture-based system

Dafydd says anyone considering moving to a 100% pasture-based sheep system should “just go for it. Have a plan, make it work for your own farm. Lamb when the grass is growing and move to mob grazing gradually to adjust.”