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Country News - 2002

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Check for the pretty killer
Tuesday 30 April

Farmers and landowners are being urged to check their land for a pretty plant which can bring a slow, lingering death to horses, sheep and cattle.

Ragwort*An appeal has gone out from the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) to landowners to look out for evidence of poisonous ragwort and destroy the plants before they bloom.

Says Dorothy Fairburn, Yorkshire regional director: "This is the best time of year to eradicate ragwort because it grows with the spring grass. All landowners - and this apply to local councils and highway authorities - should remove plants before they get beyond the low-growing rosette stage of dark green leaves, and before they produce their pretty yellow flowers.

"To be successful in destroying the plant, the weed should be dug out-and that means the roots too. The rain over the weekend will have softened the ground, making the task easier. It is terribly important to tackle this weed now because each plant can produce 150,000 air-borne seeds which can lie dormant in the soil for up to 20 years.

"Every year cattle, sheep and horses die terrible deaths because of ragwort poisoning. In its green state, it is unattractive to grazing animals but when cut and wilted in hay or topped pasture, it can be inadvertently eaten. In a cut and dried state ragwort is highly toxic to horses, cattle, sheep, causing progressive and irreversible liver damage."

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