The old Irish goat was approved as a native rare breed to Ireland today (Thursday, June 9), by the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue.
The breed received the recognition following an extensive DNA analysis through the use of genotyping technology. Making the announcement, Minister McConalogue said the research and categorisation of the breed is an important step in conservation.
The minister recognised the hardiness of the old Irish goat and said that the animal has been “a crucial component of Ireland’s past farming and rural life”. He said:
“There are many factors such as cultural, historic, and genetic diversity that make the old Irish goat a unique breed with a rich history unique to Ireland. [It] is celebrated in Irish folklore, tradition, paintings and literature.”
The long haired breed has a highly efficient digestive system and can adopt to feeding in harsh environments, making them effective gorse controllers. Currently, they play a role in a number of sustainable conservation projects and are used to manage land in heathland habitats.
“I recently saw first hand the benefit these goats bring at Howth Head in controlling gorse and helping to reduce the risk of fires with their amazing, skilled grazing techniques,” the minister added.
The Old Irish Goat Society which promotes the conservation of the breed has also been recognised by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) as a breed society authorised to maintain a breeding programme in Ireland. Speaking at the announcement, Minister McConalogue praised the society and thanked them for their efforts in the conservation of the animals.
Minister of State at the DAFM Pippa Hackett also welcomed the announcement and said it will contribute to meeting Ireland’s biodiversity goals. She stated:
“It’s important we acknowledge the value of Animal Genetic Resources to supporting biodiversity mix across the country and the role and dedication of the Old Irish Goat Society in achieving this status.”
Assessment of the breed to be considered native was dependent on a range of criteria including the number of breeding males, females and total population. The environmental performance of the breed, its cultural-historical and social values as well as its risk status were also considered.
Recognition of these goats as a native breed with an ‘at risk’ conservation status means that it can now be considered for future participation in schemes funded by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The most recent approval of a native breed by the DAFM was the recognition of Droimeann Cattle Society in 2019.