By Rose Barrett
THE return of the Old Irish Goat to Howth is expected to go ahead later in April, pending government restrictions.
They were originally planned to return to Howth Peninsula last September after an absence of 60 years.
Nessa O’Brien, the Community Council representative on the Howth SAAO Committee, remembers the last billy goat of the herd which used to regularly trot across the roof of the old golf clubhouse.
“He would stand on the rocks alone and watch the golfers,” Nessa told Dublin Gazette. “Older Residents of Howth, those who are now in their late 60s and early 70s, will remember going up to buy the goats’ milk for children who were intolerant of cow’s milk.”
Hans Visser, Fingal County Council biodiversity officer, will oversee the project.
“The open fields at Red Rock were bequeathed to the people of Ireland, under the care of Fingal County Council,” noted Nessa. “The goats will help to reduce the overgrown vegetation on the Red Rock – but they will be fenced in.”
Fingal County Council confirmed: “We would be starting with 25 goats managed by a herder. The project is for a three-year period to trial goat grazing as a management tool for the control of gorse and making the heathland vegetation more diverse.”
Until the 1940s, much of the heathland on Howth was grazed by livestock – goats, in particular. After the livestock disappeared, gorse scrub and bracken expanded. This has led to a highly flammable landscape where wildfires have become a regular occurrence since the 1980s.
The goat grazing scheme would be run by the Old Irish Goat Society and a goat herder will be appointed.
In year three, it is hoped that a small flock of goats will remain at a Howth location, using no-fence technology but still under the supervision of a herder. FCC proposes using the mobile herd to target other problem areas such as the Seabuckthorn stands in Rush and the bramble undergrowth in Turvey Nature Park in Donabate.
“It’s too far ahead yet to discuss having a milk goat herd,” said Nessa. “But it will be great to see goats again on Howth Peninsula, government restrictions allowing! Hans is up and down the Peninsula in preparation, but a herder has yet to be appointed.”