Most owners will say ragwort when asked to mention a dangerous plant but few realise that another yellow peril lurks in their paddocks – the buttercup.
Horses that develop a passion for buttercups end up with an excess of saliva, sometimes mild colic and also diarrhoea. Intakes have to be high, though, before any nasty effects are seen – consuming the odd buttercup plant is not likely to be harmful.
You will need a herbicide and a change in management to remove buttercups from your pasture. As they thrive in poor soilconditions, killing the current crop will only make room for more to grow. Change your management to prevent them taking over.
Tall-growing weeds such as buttercups can be tackled by “weed-wiping”, where the chemical is smeared on to the leaves and stem of the plant from a wick attached to the tank holding the appropriate herbicide. The plant then absorbs the chemical and dies from the inside out.
To encourage grass to grow, active grassland management will be needed, including applying lowlevel of fertiliser.
Remove your horses from the pasture for at least two weeks after “weed-wiping”.
Make sure that the herbicide application is done by a British Agrochemical Supply Industry Scheme (BASIS) accredited person. They are qualified to advise on appropriate herbicides. Most agricultural retailers either employ or have access to qualified people.
Buttercups aren’t poisonous when dry, so don’t worry if you find them in hay or haylage. All they will do is dilute the nutritional value of the hay.