Toxic Ragwort Warning Issued by UK Group

Land and horse owners are reminded to be on their guard against deadly ragwort following the inclement weather of July and August, World Horse Welfare noted in a statement Aug. 13.

"Ragwort poses a huge risk to horse health and in prolonged periods of wet weather, verges and set-aside often go uncut allowing the weed to grow and spread its seeds," said Tony Tyler, World Horse Welfare's deputy chief executive. "Once it flowers around 200,000 seeds per plant are open to the elements and as the seeds are airborne, a field of ragwort that is not even adjoining grazing animals still poses a very real threat."

A horse that eats ragwort might die from liver failure; blindness and disorientation are amongst the clinical signs, which can show up after ongoing consumption of even small amounts of ragwort. Once signs appear there is seldom a cure for ragwort poisoning; it is also dangerous to other grazing animals.

Under the UK's Weeds Act 1959 the Secretary of State might serve an enforcement notice on the occupier of land on which injurious weeds are growing, requiring the occupier to take action to prevent the spread of weeds.

The Weeds Act specifies five injurious weeds, including common ragwort. World Horse Welfare is urging communities to work together to rid fields and roads around the UK of ragwort.. As it is also poisonous to humans, anyone removing plants should wear gloves and dust masks, and follow official advice on disposing of the plants available from Defra.  

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