Howth Old Irish Goat Herd celebrate first birthday

Padraig Conlon 08 Sep 2022
Melissa Jeuken, goat herder for the Old Irish Goat Society, feeding the goats.

A year on from announcing a ground-breaking conservation grazing project in partnership with Old Irish Goat Society, Fingal County Council says that the three-year scheme is already proving to be a positive undertaking and has been warmly received by the local community.

Last summer, Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) was faced with various fires at Howth over a long six-week period where it seemed smoke was always billowing from an outbreak.

Two months later, DFB had the benefit of a new crew of Old Irish Goat firefighters permanently based on the hill which has resulted in a vastly improved situation since then.

The herd have done their bit by eating their way through vegetation like gorse, briars and bracken.

By reducing the burnable vegetation and maintaining existing firebreaks, they are reducing the potential spread of any wildfires which may start.

Mayor of Fingal, Cllr Howard Mahony said: “Wildfires have been a regular occurrence in Howth, and the risk to property from wildfires was extremely high.

“We are delighted this truly unique project has already been so successful – the goats have gone about an important role in enhancing the biodiversity of the habitat and are much loved by those who meet them whilst up on the hill.

“I look forward to seeing what the next two years of this initiative will entail.”

Goat herder for the Old Irish Goat Society, Melissa Jeuken, who began managing the herd last September said: “The goats have had a really positive impact on the grazing sites in Howth over the last 12 months, and they have settled in very well.

“Howth Hill is a very scenic location to work in, but it is also an ideal landscape for these goats and I think the Old Irish goats feel like it is a home away from home.

“The herd is thriving in Howth.

“We also welcomed an additional 15 new kids who were born this spring, which will supplement the herd and the great work it is doing. Alongside these new arrivals, a team of bucks (males) Old Irish Goats have also joined from Mayo so we now have 64 goats calling Howth Hill home.”

Chief Executive of Fingal County Council, Ann Marie Farrelly said “Seeing the success the grazing project has already made in a year, we have begun to start grazing at three other locations in Howth.

“We’ve done that after trialling goats in different areas in order for us to compare the impact of grazing by yearlings, nannies and bucks and we hope to expand that further over the next two years.”

The Old Irish Goat Society is based in Mulranny, Co Mayo.

In 2011, the last remaining Old Irish Goats were found amongst the feral goat herd on the remote mountain range in Mulranny Co. Mayo.

A breeding program was established in 2015 to prevent the extinction of Ireland’s only indigenous goat breed.

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