The British Horse Society (BHS) has announced Ragwort Action Week, to take place from 19-25 July, which will coincide with the publication with the ragwort code of practice.
The society has been behind the political campaign to raise awareness of the poisonous weed from the outset, recruiting MP John Greenway, who introduced a Bill on ragwort control in 2003. The Bill was made law at the end of last year, and included provision for a code of practice which could be used to support legal action against landowners who did not deal effectively with ragwort.
During Ragwort Action Week, the society will work in conjunction with its strong volunteer force to increase awareness of the dangers of horses and other livestock ingesting the weed, and how it should be best dealt with.
“Our aim is to highlight to all landowners, occupiers and horse owners – all those responsible for pasture management – just how serious the dangers of ragwort are,” explained Wendy Peckham, who is the driving force behind Ragwort Action Week.
“It is impossible to establish how many horses are suffering from liver damage as a result of ragwort poisoning, but 284 cases were reported in 2002, and since post-mortems are quite rarely carried out, the actual figure is likely to be considerably higher,” she said.
The code of practice sets out a strategy for land management so that it doesn’t pose a threat to horses and livestock, either direct or in the form of dried fodder. It details how to deal with and how to dispose of the weed safely.
“This is the first time that we have had a proper strategy in one document which approaches all the various elements of dealing with ragwort,” Wendy added.