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Author Topic: Ragwort  (Read 709 times)

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Ragwort
« on: June 27, 2017, 09:30:16 am »
We have a little ragwort around the edges of some of our fields, which we hand pull. 

I've just been reading the government publication Code of Practice on How to Prevent the Spread of Ragwort, in which it lists and has photos of species which may be mistaken for Common Ragwort.

Do I take it that Hoary Ragwort, Oxford Ragwort and Marsh Ragwort are not toxic?
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Ragwort
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2017, 10:19:21 am »
More reading, and it transpires that Code was withdrawn in April 2016.  Current guidance (such as it is) is, at the time of writing, here
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Ragwort
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2017, 09:38:53 am »
I've been passed the Friends of the Earth briefing on Ragwort, entitled "Ragwort : problem plant or scapegoat?"  In which it states,

Quote from: foe
Confirmed incidences of poisoning are very rare indeed and are almost always associated with horse welfare cases where the animals are not being properly looked after. Other livestock are less susceptible and do not generally live long enough to develop symptoms. In the small number of recent cases relating to cattle developing liver disease the alternative cause, moulds in hay, has not been excluded.

You can read the whole paper here.

What do people think? 
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Steph Hen

  • Joined Jul 2013
  • Angus Scotland.
Re: Ragwort
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2017, 10:21:00 am »
I read about this when I got my goats as although I'd pulled all the visible ragwort in their field I was worried there could be some plants remaining.
Goat simulator in particular are not very susceptible to ragwort poisoning, but more I read the more it seemed that ragwort is not the super toxic death weed that id learnt it to be, plus most animals learn not to eat it (unless they're starving or its dried in hay).

penninehillbilly

  • Joined Sep 2011
  • West Yorks
Re: Ragwort
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2017, 11:32:03 am »
That article was really interesting Sally.
We have some ragwort growing near the house, i always leave it until it's finished flowering, taking most of seed heads off.
We have a local google group, and a horsey person put a message up to destroy all ragwort, i responded (with links to relevant official advice) saying yes in fields, but it is the food of cinnabar moth, so I leave it alone if not in field. I got an amazing tirade of abuse off one person, and responded that she should read my article properly, and we shouldn't be responsible for the extinction of another species. Luckily a couple of others backed me and said the linked articles were very useful reading.

I have also wondered about other varieties, as we have something in one rough damp area which is ragwort (looked it up) but very different than the common one. I've left it for now.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Ragwort
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2017, 12:14:18 pm »
There's also a page on the FoE blog entitled "Is ragwort poisonous? A ragwort mythbuster"

You can read that here

It would seem that the context for the briefing paper linked in my first post was a move to make public bodies be more proactive in controlling ragwort.  FoE clearly think the plant should be left to fulfil its ecological role where it is not posing any direct threat to livestock, as do I.

However, the tone of the briefing paper, read outwith that context, seems to head in the other direction, and imply that ragwort is best left wherever it grows, even in horse paddocks.  That, I think, could be misinformation and potentially lead to animal welfare issues.

Native ponies such as Fells and Shetlands, when kept on better grassland, have to be kept on slim pickings in spring and summer in order to reduce the risk of laminitis.  Therefore they may be hungry enough to eat ragwort plants.  And possibly may unwittingly eat ragwort plants which are at the 'rosette' stage, when the plant is flat to the ground and not as easy to distinguish as when it has grown its flowering stems.

The advice on the mythbuster page talks about letting ragwort set and release seed so long as there is no bare ground for the seeds to germinate on.  Well, where ponies are tightly grazed (see above), there may be bare or nearly bare patches of earth.  (And without this being as a result of neglect, in fact, quite the reverse.). Plus, where there are hedgerows and sheep, and there has been rain or sun, there will always be bare patches of earth in the lea of the hedges where the sheep have sheltered and lain.

In Cumbria, we had Marsh Ragwort in the wet ground, which we left, but occasionally got the odd Common Ragwort plant in the odd location, presumably grown from seed arriving on tourists' boots or trousers.  We always pulled these plants up by the roots, once they'd flowered, wrapped them securely in plastic bags, and discarded them in the landfill waste.  We almost never got regrowth in the same place in subsequent years.

Here, what I understand to be the case is that the folks here have been diligent in removing ragwort plants from the hedgerows and margins of the one field where it appears, but that it is there every year.  No doubt some seed arrives on the wind from the nearby main road, where it grows unchecked on the verges - and will find bare earth on which to germinate in these locations in our meadow, for the reasons I've described above.  It is also possible that some of the plants are now perennial, complete removal including all roots having not been accomplished. 

I will do more research, but my current thinking is that we continue to remove ragwort plants here, anywhere here, as a) we have ponies and cattle, in particular we have ponies that need to be grazed very tightly in order to reduce the risk of laminitis and b) we make hay, and ragwort is at its most dangerous in hay as it is more palatable when dried.  However, I am proposing that in general, we do not attempt removal until the plant is well in flower. 

Currently we think that plants only grow in the hedgerows and margins in that one meadow, and therefore we should be safe to make hay from the inner parts of the field, and from other fields.  After hay making, we would dig up any flowering ragwort plants not already removed, and let the cattle in first, who would eat the long grasses left around the margins but leave any ragwort plants standing.  Once the plants are standing proud, neither sheep nor ponies will graze them, so we could then let these back onto the shortened margins and the fog.  We'd continue to remove the plants once they've flowered.

We may need to remove some plants at the rosette stage if there is a risk to grazing animals at that point, but in general, if we do not have sheep or ponies grazing on lean pickings where there might be rosette plants, we should be safe.  We will, of course, need to keep an eye on the growing plants to be sure that nothing has been nibbling.  And also need to continually review the risk of ragwort getting into hay. 
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

harmony

  • Joined Feb 2012
Re: Ragwort
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2017, 01:19:51 pm »
There is an interesting site ragwortfacts.com.


I believed for years it was a notifiable weed.


We pulled up our few ragwort plants when we first came here and for the first few years that seemed to work but then in some areas of our land it got worse. Eventually we sprayed and then with more sheep on the land instead of just horses this year we have no plants.


There used to be a horse in a field near us with lots of ragwort and he was fine.

Buttermilk

  • Joined Jul 2014
Re: Ragwort
« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2017, 07:59:11 pm »
Having tried to nurse several ponies with liver disease caused through ingesting ragwort I now hate the plant.  Even if the pony does not actually select the growing plant they do walk past and tread on bits which wilt, lose the bitter taste and then get eaten.  Trying to explain why Midge et al were no longer with us to a group of disabled children was hard.

These ponies had been bred and brought up on one premises and were given the best of everything, except pasture care.  Until they started falling ill and dying the owner would not believe that ragwort caused any harm, even then it took the vet showing a diseased liver for it to hit home to him.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Ragwort
« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2017, 10:50:30 pm »
Having tried to nurse several ponies with liver disease caused through ingesting ragwort I now hate the plant.  Even if the pony does not actually select the growing plant they do walk past and tread on bits which wilt, lose the bitter taste and then get eaten.  Trying to explain why Midge et al were no longer with us to a group of disabled children was hard.

These ponies had been bred and brought up on one premises and were given the best of everything, except pasture care.  Until they started falling ill and dying the owner would not believe that ragwort caused any harm, even then it took the vet showing a diseased liver for it to hit home to him.

 :bouquet:

Thank you for sharing, Buttermilk.  We need to hear the other side of the coin too, in order to be able to find the line between conservation and welfare.  :hug:
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Still playing with tractors

  • Joined Jul 2012
  • Cumbernauld
  • You can never have enough HP
Re: Ragwort
« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2017, 12:13:36 pm »
Hi all, I have read this with great interest, and its been an informed post thanks all.

in Scotland local authorities have a responsibility to clear ragwort, although as most of you know unless you take them to task they will not.

We (personally) have a policy of full removal, for some of the reasons mentioned in previous posts.

linked to this is a problem we face with our neighbour, docks, we have none but his fields are covered, but he faces an issue as his ground is a SSSI........

so we just keep on top of it with regular specific spraying and pulling.

Has anyone had any experience of plants like ragwort and docks etc and a SSSI?

CarolineJ

  • Joined Dec 2015
  • North coast of Scotland
Re: Ragwort
« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2017, 04:34:41 pm »
Assuming he's allowed to graze it, get some sheep on there - they'll take care of the docks and probably quite a bit of the ragwort as well (I bought the village Ground Zero for ragwort last year, cleared about 1/20th of it by hand, neighbour asked if he could put 50 sheep on it over summer, had about three plants this year!)

Still playing with tractors

  • Joined Jul 2012
  • Cumbernauld
  • You can never have enough HP
Re: Ragwort
« Reply #11 on: July 25, 2017, 04:42:17 pm »
Hi thanks for the reply, he has about 600 plus ewes on it wintering and he also takes the cut from it, its the spraying that seems to be the issue with the SSSI?

Steph Hen

  • Joined Jul 2013
  • Angus Scotland.
Re: Ragwort
« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2017, 05:53:09 pm »
Are there different types of docks? - ours look just like average, typical docks and sheep don't have any impact on them. ???

CarolineJ

  • Joined Dec 2015
  • North coast of Scotland
Re: Ragwort
« Reply #13 on: July 25, 2017, 07:04:09 pm »
Maybe it depends on breed - mostly North Country Cheviot round here and they all seem to love docks.

Scarlet.Dragon

  • Joined May 2015
  • Aberdeenshire
Re: Ragwort
« Reply #14 on: August 01, 2017, 10:05:40 pm »
Assuming he's allowed to graze it, get some sheep on there - they'll take care of the docks and probably quite a bit of the ragwort as well (I bought the village Ground Zero for ragwort last year, cleared about 1/20th of it by hand, neighbour asked if he could put 50 sheep on it over summer, had about three plants this year!)

It's actually still illegal to deliberately graze livestock on ragwort infested pastures with the intention of them controlling it, so never a good idea to advise that course of action.  Yes they will eat it, no it's not good for them and whilst they may need to ingest serious quantities before they die, it's a cumulative liver toxin and not a nice way to go.

I have a policy of removing everything from my fields, and I weed the roadside verges bordering my property which is where the majority of seed comes from.  I've never seen a cinnabar moth this far North, although I have seen them South of the border regularly.  I've no problem with cultivating ragwort in locations for conservation purposes, but never in an area where animals are grazed (inner city roundabouts, motorway central reservations etc seem to be inundated at present).  Unfortunately you often see the seeds getting carried well into grazing pastures in the 'wind' created by trucks and once they take hold it is hard going to eradicate.  I moved here a decade ago and had over 100 bags of ragwort the first year I made hay (all hand weeded in advance of cutting).  This year I had just 12 bags including the roadside verges...  I'm hoping eventually to get it down to 2 bags.  I will never eradicate it because the livery yard next door does nothing to control it and their pastures are overrun with the stuff (including the ones where they're hard grazing shetlands).  It's clear that's where the seed is coming from if I look at the patterns of distribution on my place but nothing I can do about it as the authorities don't take enforcement action.
Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical and expecting more than others think is possible.

 

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