Case Study

Sheep working to keep infrastructure working


Sheep working to keep infrastructure working


1. Introduction

Henning and Franziska Remmers moved on and took over the “Dyke Farm” in 2022. They were taking this decision after getting to know the herding and management of a sheep herd since autumn of 2019. Today the Henning Remmers is managing 100 ha of grassland, from which 80 ha are dykes. A further dyke will be included in the farmland soon.

2. Basic information

Main promoter

Henning and Franziska Remmers

Start of the practice



Wangerland, Germany

Organisations involved
  • Farmer(s)/ Dairymaid(s)/ Herder(s)
  • Public landowner(s)
  • Municipality(ies)
  • Dyke association
Total surface of land farmed in ha

The farm is based on approx. 100 ha of grassland, of which approx. 80 ha are dykes.

Ownership of the land used for transhumance farming
  • Rented public land
Basic produce

Henning and Franziska Remmers produce sheep meat and wool. Moreover, the sheep grazing enables and fosters the maintenance and stability of the dykes. The North Sea repeatedly caused flooding of the land near the coasts and caused much destruction. Thus, diking of the land began early on. The core of a dyke consists of sand, on top of which a layer of marshland soil is applied. On the seaward side, the dyke runs out long and flat. Thereby, the force of the oncoming water masses is slowed down, and the dyke cannot break so easily. On the dyke, the sheep herd fulfils the function of the “triple roller”, which means that with their “golden hooves” they ensure the strength of the sward so that it can withstand heavy storm surges. The stability of the dykes is crucial for the security, farming and living of the whole region. The public good is a special biodiverse agricultural landscape attractive for tourists.

DE94A Friesland
  • Main farm



3. Situation before startup/ change/ continuation

Henning Remmers is a farmer’s son from the region. His parents managed a dairy herd of 70 cows. Currently, his parents are keeping organic laying hens instead of cows. Since the parents were still young, Henning Remmers decided to stay in the farmer business but to look for an own farm.

He worked as a farm helper and worked on the dyke farm he now rents in autumn 2019. All dyke farms are owned by the Deichverband (Dyke association). The farmers rent the farm and the land; so did Henning Remmers in 2022.

4. Transhumance farming business description

Landscape type
  • Meadows
  • Grasslands  on dykes

The grazing of the dyke areas by sheep is essential for the stability of the dykes. Grazing results in a short, closed and firm sward.

Animal type/ breed

Based on approx. 100 ha of grassland, of which approx. 80 ha are dykes, the Remmers family manages a herd of 650 ewes with offspring. The feed is based on grazing throughout March to October and feed rations consisting of a mix of silage/ cereals/ pomace and field beans. Additionally the sheep get some concentrated performance feed. Henning Remmers aims at optimising, which he defines as the preferable state of health, fertility and performance. Health, fertility and performance are closed linked and fostering each other. In line with his decision for performance-oriented breeding and management of grasslands, Henning Remmers decided to extend his business by renting further dykes.

Movement patterns

The sheep are moving in the area close by the farm. The movement is horizontal along the dykes and short-distance. As the land is flat everything in sight.

Kind of cooperation

The production and processing can be considered intensive on a medium scale with maximum depth of creation of added value for the farm itself as well as the cooperating businesses (butcher and trader).

Markets addressed/ product selling

Form the beginning, Henning Remmers aimed at high-quality and high-performing niche production, processing and partly direct selling. This approach allows him to keep added value of his products within his farming business. Therefore, he decided to adapt part of the principles of good dairy farming to the activities related to keeping sheep. In addition to selling sheep meat directly to the customers, he has a good cooperation with a local butcher and a trader.

5. Decisions taken


As a dyke shepherd, Henning Remmers does not only undertake the usual shepherding work – the dyke sheep play a critical role in coastal protection. Managing the land and the fences is essential as it implies keeping an eye on the animals. They are core and key for success from economic, ecological and social perspectives.

Decision for the kind of animal/ specific breed

For Henning Remmers it is important to see meat, milk and wool not as a by-product of landscape protection or dyke management, but as a way to make a living based on farming.

Decision for the production system

Henning Remmers is a newcomer in the keeping of sheep. This means, he had to learn a lot at the beginning. Now he can transfer knowledge from other ways of farming, which seems highly promising for the farmer family, the farm, the animals and the landscape. Henning Remmers is convinced that sheep on the meadows are not only a nice sight. In his management system grazing is a cheap, effective way of feeding. The result is a well-managed agricultural landscape, meadows in good shape, intact hedges, fences and ditches. Good meadows deliver good feed.

Diversification of income

Income is based on performance in farming activity and the selling of meat, milk and wool. Additionally, there is the touristic attraction of the region, which is used on the farm by a pension on the farm.

Multifunctional aspects

Without dykes, many regions as we know them today would no longer exist. Today, it is impossible to imagine the East Frisian landscape without them. The dykes give the landscape its typical appearance. Sheep have a perfect grazing place here and, at the same time support the dyke protection as little helpers by “trampling” the dyke with their hooves ensuring its stability.

6. Training/ skills to establish the business

Henning Remmers is educated professionally as a farmer. Due to his work as a farm helper, he got an insight to various ways of farming, from keeping animals to managing land.

In the field of sheep, he got more and more interested since his first insight in the autumn of 2019. He appreciates the basic existing knowledge of old shepherds. At the same time, he considers the quality of the professional exchange as quite low or even not existing.

There is basic good technical consulting from the “Beratungsringe” (farmer’s advisory boardsrings).

Henning Remmers wishes to establish a network on a farmer-to-farmer base; from entrepreneur to entrepreneur, enabling reflection and improvement of the future for the single farm and the sector.

7. Next steps to move on

Henning Remmers is a highly motivated young farmer. He will continue to combine tradition and innovation, especially to take knowledge and skills from dairy farming and transfer it to the keeping of sheep. As a further dyke will be included in the farmland soon, there is possible growth which will be accompanied by construction work with a new, more modern stable.

For the ongoing development, Henning Remmers aims to: 

  • grow to 900 ewes
  • deepen cooperation with other farmers

8. Quote and recommendation of the promoter

Up to now, the family Remmers considers the farm project worth it; of course keeping in mind that the experience is quite new.

Besides pure economics and reaching a family income, it is great to lift the potential of keeping sheep and optimising according to and in the middle of this special landscape.

Sheep have an advantage compared to cattle, poultry or pigs. “They can be considered the animals wearing a green jacket”.

It is good to see that lambing has improved. The animals leave the farm in a good shape.

Take other perspectives. Look at principles, procedures and processes working in other ways of farming and even in other sectors. There is enormous potential from a technical and entrepreneurial point of view.

Be aware that the animal’s health, shape, fertility, and performance are essential in livestock farming.

Henning Remmers sees the following success factors:

  • high standards and ambition
  • target orientation