06 July 2010
Almost everyone involved with horses will know about the dangers that ragwort poses – every year animals die painful and unnecessary deaths as a result of damage to their liver from consuming the toxic plant. Despite this, ragwort levels seem to be on the increase and the BHS has certainly seen this in the number of cases reported over the last few years. This suggests that the laws governing ragwort (Weeds Act 1959, Ragwort Control Act 2003) are not being enforced and that many horse owners are not taking the threat the plant represents seriously.
It is a myth that horses will not eat ragwort, and even small amounts can cause damage to the liver, the effects being cumulative and irreversible.
Plants are best sprayed at the rosette stage in spring/early summer, but if any do survive to the flowering stage, they must be pulled by hand to prevent them from seeding.
Gloves should be worn as the plants can also be dangerous to human health and the toxins absorbed through the skin.
The BHS is conducting a survey from July12-19th for people to report the location and prevelance of ragwort in their area, in order to gauge the true extent of the problem in the UK. If you wish to participate in this survey, please visit the BHS website for more details. www.bhs.org.uk