How to Prevent Ragwort Poisoning July 02 2014

Ragwort is well known to be poisonous to horses. A small amount over a long period can be just as fatal as a large amount at once. Ragwort damages the liver and the initial effects can be that the horse becomes lethargic, can’t be bothered or perhaps behaves in a way that is not at all usual. He also becomes really sensitive to sun, developing photosensitisation where the skin becomes inflamed in those areas of the skin which are pink and these areas become painful when exposed to sunlight.  The horse may eat well but will lose weight. Eventually he could go blind, have real problems breathing and start to wobble when walking. Maybe he will lean with his head against the wall. Death can come very fast.

One of the things that you have to remember is that when you buy your horse, he may have already been eating ragwort and that when he eats some more, it takes him over the limit and he starts suffering very quickly. There are often no signs of any problems until the condition has progressed, then it is too late to do something about it. It is very serious for horses.

However, first of all you must recognise the plant! Then you must be aware of the growing season. Seedlings are around in the Autumn and are about 10 to 15mm high. The rosettes appear in early Spring and then from May to October the plant flowers and can reach up to 2 meters in height! When the flowers have finished, the thousands of seeds then tend to grow near to the original plant or can be carried to other sites by wind, animals, water or you! This is why you must deal with ragwort in your field and encourage your friends and neighbours to get rid of ragwort too.

Young plants taste less bitter than older ones but ragwort which has come to the end of its season and has died does not taste bitter - consequently beware of getting it mixed up with haylage etc.

Ragwort is also harmful to humans so you must wear gloves and protective clothes to avoid getting into contact with it. Remove when it is in its young stage - if you have to remove it when it is flowering, wear a face mask to avoid breathing in the pollen. You must remove the roots as new plants will spring up from root left in the soil. Then, you must burn it, using advice from the Defra site.  

Unfortunately, ragwort seeds live in the soil and will germinate years later. Keeping your land ragwort free is a continual process but worth it.

Here at Mane Supplies we have a range of protective clothing, for many applications, click here.