A GROUP of 25 ‘Old Irish Goats’ originating from the national herd in Mulranny, Co Mayo, have just arrived in their new home on Howth Head as the first phase of a conservation grazing project aimed at reducing wildfires.
The project aims to utilise traditional methods of management, with a goat herder and sheepdogs. It will also trial, for the first time, the Norwegian “No-fence” system, which uses GPS tracking.
Sean Carolan, of the Old Irish Goat Society said: “The herder will manage the goat herd on Howth, move the goats on a daily basis from site to site and look after the breeding programme.”
The project is seeking to re-establish the traditional grazing role of the goat by reinstating the indigenous breed. Up until the 1940s, Howth Head was traditionally grazed by goats. However, with the decline of traditional grazing, wildfires became more frequent, gorse and bracken growth expanded and the diversity and quality of the heathland declined.
This endangered, native breed of goat will play an important role in managing growth to reduce fire risk to homes, while also enhancing the biodiversity of the heathland habitats.
The Old Irish goat has the ability to control the accumulation of gorse, especially after fires and due to their grazing behaviour and efficient digestive systems, adapt to feeding on harsher environments.
“There is a clear link between the disappearance of livestock and the decline of the heathland on Howth,” said Hans Visser, Biodiversity Officer with Fingal County Council.
“By reinstating grazing with goats, we intend to restore the heathland and reduce the wildfire risk on Howth,” he added.
Herder Melissa Jeuken has the job of taking care of the goats, and says their presence won’t affect visitors to the popular spot — but she does make a request to the public to be mindful, especially while walking with dogs. “We are reminding the public to keep their dog on a lead and ask you to please not to feed the goats if you encounter them, she said. “You can and should keep visiting this incredible place and enjoying the walking routes and scenery that Howth has to offer,” she added.
By the way, the collective noun, as far as the diligent staff at The Northside News is aware, for goats, is ‘Trip’, not group. It comes from the Middle Dutch word ‘trippen’ which means to skip or hop .