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Environment, Climate Change & Agriculture

Old Irish Goat Society

The Old Irish Goat Project is a transnational genetic resource conservation project for food security and climate adaption. The project has established a national herd of 80 registered Old Irish Goats. Preserving genetic resources is crucial in the face of climate change.

The Old Irish Goat Society was originally formed on the Burren in Co. Clare in 2006, but despite significant volunteer efforts to save any Old Irish goats in the feral herds in that region, they were not successful.

In 2012, the society was reactivated when Old Irish Goats were found amongst the feral goat herd on the hill behind Mulranny village. Some introgression had already occurred with domestic stock, but there was enough evidence of the ‘Old Irish’ goat left to inspire a few local residents to remove them from the feral herd and start a breeding program, conducted several DNA studies and with the help of the media, made it known that Ireland’s only indigenous goat had been found and was on the brink of extinction.

The science required to establish the breed took several years as DNA was required from old taxidermy specimens as well as live goats followed by international comparisons made with other goat breeds. This was achieved with the help of the staff at the Smurfit Institute of Genetics at Trinity College in Dublin and help of Professor Hans Lenstra from Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

The Old Irish goat has the ability to control the accumulation of gorse, especially after fires and due to their skillful grazing behaviour and efficient digestive systems, adapt to feeding on harsher environments with low nutritive quality heathlands. They effectively offer a more economical and sustainable solution to managing the landscape.

The society has been active in working with the Dept. of Agriculture, Food and Marine to establish the breed and also gain recognition of the importance the genetic diversity of rare breeds in general for Irish Agriculture. In June 2022, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue, announced the approval of the Old Irish Goat breed as a Native Rare breed to Ireland. Its recognition as a breed is based on extensive DNA profiling using the latest Genotyping technology and is an important step in the conservation of this rare breed.

The Old Irish Goat Society (OIGS) is currently based in Mulranny, Co. Mayo where the Old Irish Goat Visitor Centre and Sanctuary opened in 2021. Fourteen local contributors and artists have their fine craftwork and art for sale. There is a selection of fibre, textiles, wood, glass and pottery along with prints and cards, all beautifully done. In the Interpretive Centre you can view a short film on the story of the goats and how the Old Irish Goat Society was able to prove that this goat is indeed a unique indigenous goat breed of Ireland.

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