Herd of hungry goats deployed on Howth Head to prevent future wildfires


Kacey O'Riordan
Kacey O'Riordan

12.53 8 Sep 2021


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A herd of hungry goats has been moved onto Howth head in a bid to prevent wildfires.

Fires raged across the Dublin landmark for six weeks this summer, damaging up to 30 acres of land.

The 25 animals will be led to different parts of the area each day by Goatherd Melissa Jeuken where they will eat the gorse reducing the fuel available for future fires.

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Goatherd Melissa Jeuken with her firefighting goats on Howth Head. Image: Orla Murray/Coalesce Goatherd Melissa Jeuken with her firefighting goats on Howth Head. Image: Orla Murray/Coalesce

She told Newstalk that the goats have impressive appetites.

“They are good grazers,” she said. “They have a large room and capacity so they can eat a lot of forage.

“Hopefully they will be able to eat their own weight in forage every day. For adults that is about 35kg to 40kg for the females and about 50kg for the males.”

Children feed the firefighting goats on Howth Head. Image: Orla Murray/Coalesce Children feed the firefighting goats on Howth Head. Image: Orla Murray/Coalesce

It took six weeks to fully extinguish the wildfires in Howth this summer – at a cost to the taxpayer of as much as €250,000.

Fingal County Council Biodiversity Officer Hans Visser explains what he hopes the goats will achieve.

“The height of the gorse comes down to make the fires less big,” he said.

“It is trying to I suppose cut up the landscape into smaller bits so that if a fire happens, it will only burn a small bit of the landscape instead of the whole mountainside.”

Goatherd Melissa Jeuken with her firefighting goats on Howth Head. Image: Orla Murray/Coalesce Goatherd Melissa Jeuken with her firefighting goats on Howth Head. Image: Orla Murray/Coalesce

The Old Irish Goats were moved from the hills of Mulraney in County Mayo for their new firefighting roles.

Ms Jeuken beat off competition from 100 other applications to land the herding job.


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