Ragwort warning

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The Weeds Act is often ignored by some occupiers, landowners and rail and road departments. Most livestock owners realise that ragwort needs to be eliminated as it contains compounds that are poisonous to most animals, especially horses.

Extra care must be taken by horse owners when purchasing fodder and bedding straw from organic farms.

In reality, £1,000 is the sum an owner or occupier of land could pay if they fail to take steps to eradicate ragwort. The ingestion of the toxin contained in the plant results in the delayed onset of chronic liver failure.

The signs of ragwort poisoning include weight loss, weakness, sleepiness and neurological problems such as aimless walking and chewing motions.

The Trekking and Riding Society of Scotland, which is the governing body of Recreational Riding, the British Horse Society and the Association of British Riding Schools are working together to make equestrian centres, occupiers and landowners aware of the dangers of ragwort.

Each plant can produce 15,000 seeds of which 70 per cent can germinate.

Many years ago, having purchased a horse that previously must have had access to ragwort, I had the dreadful experience of witnessing the most horrific pain suffered by any animal.

Thankfully, it was dispatched by the local vet. Even to this day, the experience is still embedded in my mind.

George Tait

The Trekking and Riding Society of Scotland