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Be vigilant, Ragwort is on the up

There are calls for farmers and horse owners to be extra vigilant in light of a 20 per cent increase in reports of Ragwort between 2016 and 2018.

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There has been a 20 per cent rise in reports of Ragwort in the last two years.
There has been a 20 per cent rise in reports of Ragwort in the last two years.
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Be vigilant, Ragwort is on the up

A freedom of information request was put forward by horse insurers, the Insurance Emporium, which found Yorkshire was the origin of the most complaints at nine per cent, followed closely by Aberdeenshire.

 

Occurrences of Ragwort in Scotland however were much lower than in England and Scottish Natural Heritage received 80 per cent less complaints.

 

In Northern Ireland, just 30 reports were received, and in Wales, there were only nine complaints.

 

Despite arguments that Ragwort plays an important role in the lifecycle of some species, sheep and cattle, horses, pigs and chickens can become susceptible, especially if grass growth is poor or when young Ragwort plants are growing amongst the grass.


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The greatest threat for Ragwort poisoning in cattle and sheep is through consumption of Ragwort in haylage or silage.

 

Dead and wilted Ragwort becomes more palatable and often contaminates the whole silage clamp.

 

Management

Toxins can build up over a period of weeks or months, but sometimes it takes up to 18 months for clinical signs to be seen.

 

Ragwort poisoning results in liver failure, clinical signs include depression, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, jaundice, photosensitisation, swelling of the abdomen and sometimes neurological symptoms such as staggering, circling and head pressing.

 

Francis Martin, chief executive of the Insurance Emporium, says: “Proper land management is the way to go to ensure that grazing is Ragwort-free, it is also important to check hay and haylage for Ragwort.”

 

Low populations of Ragwort can be controlled by pulling the plant up by the roots, but do not cut or the plant will return, often more vigorously. On a larger scale an herbicide may be applied, but the best method of control is to improve grassland management to promote a vigorous sward.

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