One of the Old Irish Goats currently 'working' in Howth, pictured when its rare breed status was announced earlier this year. Minister Charlie McConalogue was on site to hear about the project there.

Old Irish Goats get to work tackling scourge of giant rhubarb in Achill

MAYO'S Old Irish Goats herd have a new work contract.

They are being deployed to tackle giant rhubarb in Achill.

The goats got to work at a site in Currane last week and their success in controlling the invasive plant will be closely monitored.

Giant rhubarb (Gunnera tinctoria) has been a massive problem in Achill, Currane and also in Louisburgh, a Mayo County Council committee meeting that deals with heritage matters was told.

The local authority is working with the Mulranny-based Old Irish Goat Society on the project, heritage officer Deirdre Cunningham explained, and also the Atlantic Technological University.

Last year goats from Mulranny took up residence in Howth to deal with wildfire problems there.

Now they are being put to work more locally to see if they can be effective in controlling Gunnera.

The goats were given a taster session for the new job when they were placed into a small plot to see if they would eat Gunnera. "They loved it," reported Ms. Cunningham.

A site had been identified in Currane and goats were put to work there last Wednesday evening.

While they eat it, they needed to find out if the goats will be effective in controlling this invasive plant, Ms. Cunningham explained.

The animals' welfare is a key component of the project and blood samples will be taken from the goats to ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need.

Councillor Gerry Coyle asked if there was any chance the plant would actually be spread through the seeds the goats would eat.

Ms. Cunningham said this is part of the research project, to see how long the seeds are viable for. They needed to collect this data to see how they control it.

Councillor Donna Sheridan said it was wonderful that they are being used like this, dealing with issues in an environmentally friendly way.

The Old Irish Goat dates back to Neolithic times and they have been the subject of a breeding programme in Mulranny. Earlier this year it was approved as a native rare breed to Ireland by the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue.