It is that time of year again when verges and waste ground are covered in tall yellow flowers which may look pretty, but the sight will chill the heart of every horse owner and spells death to horses and cattle. The British Horse Society is once again running Root Out Ragwort Week to raise awareness of the dangers of this poisonous weed and the importance of stopping it from seeding at all costs.
As part of Root Out Ragwort Week this year, the BHS is calling on everyone to report infestations of the plant to their local paper so that the culprits who allow this noxious weed to spread can be named and shamed.
Ragwort is poisonous to all livestock, and humans too, so gloves should always be worn when pulling it. It is listed as an injurious weed under the Weeds Act 1959 which makes it an offence not to comply with clearance notices.
The real danger of the current spread is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep hay fields free of ragwort. Ragwort in hay is particularly dangerous because horses are more likely to eat it. It is more palatable when dry, but just as toxic. Small amounts build up in the system over years and will lead to a horrible death. If ragwort is found in hay it should be reported to the Trading Standards Office at the local authority.
To lose a much loved horse is one of the most devastating things that can happen to any horse owner, particularly when that death could have been prevented. It is vital that ragwort is eliminated from any field where horses are grazing, but this is proving an increasingly difficult task for horse owners because of seeds blowing in from neighbouring fields or roadside verges.
The British Horse Society Root Out Ragwort Week is supported by the National Equine Welfare Council, The Country Landowners Association, the Animal Health Trust, the RSPCA and The Donkey Sanctuary.
For a leaflet on ragwort and how to get rid of it, send a sae to:
The British Horse Society, Stoneleigh Deer Park, Kenilworth, Warwickshire CV8 2XZ
How to recognise Ragwort
Ragwort grows quite tall - two or three feet - with dense clusters of dark yellow daisy-like flowers. It has a rather pretty leaf with feathery edges (hence the name ragwort). It often has a red stem which makes the mature plant readily identifiable.