Buying sheep for the Great Orme farm

Farmer Dan and Plantlife's Colin at the auction

We’ve been searching for a new flock of hardy sheep for Parc Farm on the Great Orme, Snowdonia with farmer, Dan Jones.

The flock of 400 sheep will graze the coastal headland in north Wales, helping to create the right conditions for the Great Orme’s rare wildlife to flourish.
Gethin Evans, our Senior Estate Manager for north Wales talks us through his day at the Welshpool sheep sales with Great Orme farmer Dan Jones and Plantlife’s Colin Cheeseman. Plantlife are donating £45,000 towards the new flock.

7:30 Leave home

Home is the family farm in Aberystwyth where I live with my wife and seventeen-month old daughter. They are staying put today as I head off to the sale in Welshpool, 50 miles away.

10:00 Arrive at the sheep sale

We get to Welshpool in good time and meet up with Dan and Colin. Dan is looking for sheep that can withstand the wind and rain on the Great Orme.
We spend an hour inspecting the sheep before the auctions start. We carry out an initial visual health-check, inspecting their teeth and hooves, and talk to the sellers about their ewes’ health.
All the sheep in the sale are Lleyns, a breed that originates from the Llyn peninsula in North Wales. It’s an area with similar climate to the Orme, so the sheep should suit the Orme’s wild, wet weather.

Lleyn sheep at the auction
Lleyn sheep at the auction
Lleyn sheep at the auction

11:00 Auction starts

The auction sheds are noisy with the excited chatter of both buyers and sellers. The auctioneer stares down from his podium. In the ring, the sheep are silent.
I worked in the livestock market at Welshpool for four years and I’ve been to hundreds of sales. But I still find the auction house exciting – my pulse gets always speeds up as bidding starts.
The auctioneer shouts into his microphone and we’re off. As the bids get higher and higher, so the excitement and anticipation build.
The older ewes are sold first. Most are out of our price-range.  But at last, after a lot of waiting and some tense bidding, Dan manages to secure seven mature ewes and 144 ‘yearlings’ (year old sheep).
I’ve spied some good sheep for my own family farm and buy 38 ewe lambs to join my 550-strong flock.

15:30 Rams

The rams are usually sold at the end of the day. They need to be strong; we'll be expecting them to mate with approximately 50 ewes each winter.  
Dan bids for two rams.  Rams are traditionally sold in guineas. One guinea is equivalent to £1.05, with the pound going to the breeder and five pence commission to the auctioneer.

Sheep in their new pastures at Parc Farm
Sheep on the Great Orme
Sheep in their new pastures at Parc Farm

16:30 Loading up

By the end of the day, we’ve bought 151 sheep and two rams – so well over half way to our target.  Plantlife’s investment has bought a flock that will graze the Orme and ensure that rare plants like the Orme Berry can survive. Without grazing the rare limestone grassland habitats on the Orme would become overgrown with scrub.
Dan will spend the next few weeks touring local farms and sales, finding the rest of his flock.
We load the sheep onto trailers. The sheep will spend the next two months in the fields at Parc Farm, acclimatising to the Orme and getting used to Dan and his dogs before being let out onto the rough grazing around the cliffs.