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Q: In early spring this year my mare died as a result of eating locally bought hay containing ragwort — laboratory tests confirmed the presence of the poisonous plant.
Aren’t commercial haymakers subject to quality control standards for hay they sell to the public?
This sad case illustrates the importance of farmers putting quality control standards into place — although in dried form and within a bale of hay, ragwort is very difficult to detect.
Equine lawyer Sarah Jordan of Daltons Solicitors has already seen legal cases this year involving the commercial supply of bad batches of hay.
“Hay sales in the course of a business fall within sale of goods legislation,” she explained.
“Accordingly, the hay must be of satisfactory quality and fit for the purpose intended. Hay teaming with ragwort breaches both requirements and therefore a consumer could claim for damages against the producer or supplier.
“In a case like yours, potential damages include the value of the horse that died, as well as any veterinary treatment relating to the ragwort poisoning,” Sarah advised.
“For those of us who do not have the option of making our own hay and knowing its history, it is important to question suppliers about their haymaking process.
“Ask to see up-to-date records of field-spraying each season, take references from other customers of the supplier and, if in doubt, don’t buy.”
Daltons Solicitors, tel: 01730 262816 www.equinelawyer.co.uk
This article was first published in Horse & Hound (24 December, ’09)
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