Farming watchdog issues warning about ragwort at Saddleworth roadsides

NFU North West Regional Director, David Hall

A farming watchdog has issued a warning about a brightly-coloured weed flowering at Saddleworth roadsides.

Because although the yellow clumps of ragwort are adored by rare insects, they can pose a health threat to livestock and humans.

NFU North West Regional Director, David Hall, farms at Cherry Clough Farm in Denshaw.

He said: “Ragwort poses a significant risk to animal health in either its green or dried state.

“Care must be taken when disposing of it because all parts of the plant remain toxic and harmful to animals when treated or wilted.

“Left unchecked, the problem is likely to become worse as a seed reservoir builds up.

“Cut and pulled flowering ragwort plants may still set seed and ragwort has a 70 per cent  germination rate.”

Ragwort is a specified injurious weed under the Weeds Act 1959. This act empowers the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to serve notice requiring an occupier of land on which ragwort is growing to take action to prevent it from spreading.

Ragwort flowering at the roadside

Defra has no legal obligation to take action and tends to prioritise its resources on land where the ragwort is likely to impact negatively on livestock, conservation or agricultural activities.

Mr Hall declared: “Ragwort in the Saddleworth area is rife. It’s a particular problem in areas adjacent to where cows graze or fields where winter fodder is being grown.

“The weed is a major concern for farmers as it poses a significant danger to livestock and horses with potentially fatal consequences if ingested.

“And let us not forget it is also poisonous to humans, so there is no excuse for not bringing this deadly yellow flower under control.

“Now is the optimum time to pull out the weed, before it goes to seed. One plant can produce tens of thousands of seeds that can lie dormant for many years.”

And the NFU say wearing gloves is essential when handling or removing ragwort.


One Reply to “Farming watchdog issues warning about ragwort at Saddleworth roadsides”

  1. Living ragwort poses little threat to live stock as horses and cattle will not eat the living plant unless starved. Ragwort is a problem if it gets into hay as it loses its bitterness and horses and cattle will consume it. (Most competent farmers and experienced horse owners are very careful about who and where they buy hay / forage from, but some people can’t resist a bargain.) Ragwort poses no significant threat to human health, albeit some people will have a skin reaction to handling the plant.

    Ragwort was traditionally controlled in pasture by grazing sheep on the young plants, but nowadays people pull ragwort leaving root fragments that regenerate into new plants and then claim that seeds have blown in from the road.

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