Conservation Grazing

A Sustainable Future

After a decade of working with the Old Irish Goats, our team recognised that these Old Irish Goats, were perfectly designed for conservation grazing! This nimble-footed hardy breed, can easily access terrain – that man and machine cannot, and often should not! They have fully-adapted to the Irish climate and the landscape.  As a primitive breed they have a wider grazing palate than that of modern breeds.  In fact they can thrive on wild forage!

As a team we are commited to building a sustainable future for the Old Irish Goat, for the betterment of nature and biodiversity. We need to look back to the natural gentler mechanisms nature has provided, to restore biodiversity. The Old Irish Goats can provide an ecologically-conscious solution to land-management, and can help us restore balance in our vulnerable environments.  We hope in proving its importance and utility in Conservation Grazing, we can preserve this vital genetic resource and help to secure this iconic indigenous breed’s future. 

Conservation Grazing

Conservation Grazing with Old Irish Goats

The Old Irish Goat, arrived with neolithic settlers c 5,000 years ago. It is a landrace breed which has evolved and perfectly adapted to the climate and  the landscape. A cold-weather goat, it is armed with a thick cashmere undercoat under a water-resistant long outer-coat. This helps it to keep warm and dry in cold or wet weather. It naturally sheds this cashmere layer in summer to accommodate the change in seasonal temperatures . This maintenance free adaptation facilitates all-year-round grazing.

Although we use the term Conservation Grazing, goats in fact are not grazers they are browsers. They prefer a variety of forage and like to consume small amounts of food and move on to another target. This type of grazing-behaviour negates any possibility of over-grazing once managed. This is achieved through site and task assessment, and stategic stocking-level control. The Old Irish Goat unlike modern breeds can thrive on wild-forage alone, making for a hardy, independent and hard-working ally. 

For the last 2 years we have successfully utilised the Old Irish Goat, in Conservation Grazing. They have demonstrated their value in invasive-species control, gorse-management, grassland & healthland management and wildfire prevention! We are the first in Ireland to use a virtual-fence system, allowing for targeted management of the sites they work on.  This means there is no additional fencing or unnecessary land/habitat disturbance.  Moreover it enables strategic focus on their grazing target. It is a brilliant and inspiring symbiosis of ancient and modern technology

Old Irish Goat Buck
Old Irish Buck

Did you know? Goats are the lowest methane producing animal of all ruminant species!

Methane Production per individual (kg/year)
Methane Production per individual (kg/year)

Why Graze with Goats?

  • Expert advice & site and stocking assessment
  • Virtual Fence System
  • Fully-trained goat herd
  • Targeted grazing using virtual-paddock
  • No disturbance to site or fencing required
  • Ecologically Conscious
  • Environmentally-friendly
  • Low Impact
  • Non-Chemical  & non-mechanical
  • Designed for difficult terrain; steep slopes & riverbanks
  • Can easily access where man & machine cannot
  • No Noise pollution
  • Wildfire-mitigation
  • Control of invasive species
  • Soil fertilitisation with organic enrichment
  • Grassland, heathland & woodland management
  • Supports Biodiversity
  • Facilitates regrowth of Native Plants
  • Support the utility of a native breed
  • Champion vital genetic-resources

Our Projects

Gunnera Tinctoria - Conservation Grazing

Project 1: Proof of Concept – October 2021

This pioneering initiative successfully deployed Old Irish Goats to tackle the invasive plant Gunnera Tinctoria for the first time in Ireland.  Also known as Giant Rhubarb, this invasive species grows to 2.5 metres in height and its leaves measure 2 metres diameter. It is a non-native that originates from Chile and Argentina, although it is likely it arrived here from the UK. It’s presence and prevalence in Galway, Mayo and Achill Ireland are of great concern owing to it’s negative impact on local biodiversity.  This is due to light exclusion from its vast leafed-canopies and its damaging contribution to riverbank erosion. 

After several months of training on the virtual-paddock system, the herd were deployed to the site to assist with Conservation Grazing. They got to work clearing leaves and stalks of this invasive behemoth – Gunnera Tinctoria

Project 1 Result: The Old Irish Goats successfully advanced through the Gunnera site consuming leaves and the stalks of the plant. Futhermore their progress rate and like of Gunnera exceeded expectations.

Gunnera Invasive Species Ireland

Project 2: Commenced September 2022 Objective:  Invasive-Control Feasibility, : Research Project. Atlantic Technological University, tasked with gathering data needed to accurately assess the long-term efficacy of goat grazing in successful Gunnera control. 

Qualitative & Quantative Data Goals: Assessing seed viability post-excretion, and volume grazed versus volume regrowth.

We hope this initial study will enable a more complex study to be carried out to fully assess seed viability & potential transferance so if these risks are verified, they can then be mitigated. 

Goat Grazing Gunnera

This project is funded and supported by the Heritage Council, Mayo County Council and South West Mayo Development Company CLG

Heritage Council Ireland

Howth Conservation Grazing Project

3 Year Pilot Programme – Howth Head (2021-2024)

In September 2021, in partnership with Fingal County Council, and Howth SAAO (Special Area Amenity Order) we deployed 25 Old Irish Goats to Howth Head.  Howth is well known for its natural beauty, and stunning headland and is part of the Dublin Bay UNESCO Biosphere which is home to many rare and important species of Wildlife. 

Firefighting Goats

Unfortunately this stunning environment has also fallen victim to significant gorse fires over the years, which have caused devastating destruction to vulnerable habitats. In 2021, prior to the arrival of the herd, a gorse fire burned for 6 weeks on the hill adjacent to our herds new homebase. The enduring blaze threatening people’s homes, and came at a huge cost to both the environment and the state

The goats arrival is not an introduction but rather a return. There is a long history of goats grazing in Howth, in fact a goat on Howth Head features in James’ Joyces iconic ‘Ulysses’ written 100 years ago.  It is highly probable this was the Old type, as the arrival of more modern breeds was to come some time later. Their removal in the 1950’s, had an unexpected impact. Gorse fires. The goats reintroduction to Howth has been warmly supported by the local community who have embraced their presence. hey know they are here to help!

Project Goals: The herd maintain and develop firebreaks, and reduce the volume of burnable-material thus reducing fire-risk.  By reducing the amount of the non-native highly-competitive Ulex Europaeus (gorse) – the ecosystem should rebalance and we should see biodiversity improvement on the heathland,


Old Irish Goat Herder

To manage a project of this scale, we employed Melissa Jeuken to oversee the Conservation Grazing Goat Project in Howth.  Melissa has been raising goats since she was a teenager, eventually raising her own dairy herd of goats.  She began producing and selling goats milk, cheese and yoghurt on the family farm in the Burren Co.Clare. In addition to these animal-husbandry skills, she had worked already with the Old Irish herd living wild in the Burren. Having someone so familiar with the breed, is in itself unusual as they are such elusive creatures. Melissa took a four year break from the goat-world, to study Veterinary nursing.

The knowledge, skill and relationship she has built with the herd is truly remarkable. A better advocate for this breed’s unique ability and utility you could not find!

Howth Goat Grazing
Melissa Jeuken Grazing Goats Howth

First year results: The goats have been successful in their efforts to graze gorse, and bracken (ferns). Our goats have progressed through the first years grazing plan, and firebreaks on time and on target.  The herd has grown from 25 to 64, of which 15 kids were born in Howth this year as part of the Old Irish Goat Breeding Programme. They are the first Old Irish Goats to be born in Dublin in over 70 years. 

Fingal County Council Goat Grazing
Howth SAAO
Our thanks to our Project Partners Fingal County Council & Howth SAAO
In the Media
Howth Goat Grazing
Virgin Media News - Coverage of Old Irish Goats arriving in Howth
Melissa Jeuken Irish Times September 2022
Kathleen Harris from the Irish Times visits Melissa & the Herd one year on.

Follow Their Journey