MPs are being urged to back a private members bill going through Parliament to force local authorities and railway companies to clear a deadly weed from their land - because evey year it kills cattle and horses.
Ragwort will soon be coming into flower and it is particularly fond of spreading along countryside verges and railway tracks. In the past, farmers and other landowners would send out work parties to identify the week before it flowered and set seed - but local authorities in particular say they are too short of cash to control it in roadside verges.
Now, MP John Greenaway is steering his Equine Welfare (Ragwort Control) Bill through Parliament in an effort to make councils and other landowners legally responsible for removing the weed.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is lobbying other MPs to ensure that they support the Bill. CLA's Regional Surveyor Helen Lancaster says: "This attractive but deadly weed, with its distinctive yellow flower, continues to spread over land owned by highway authorities and the utilities. The failure of such bodies to keep ragwort at bay negates the positive work carried out by other occupiers of land to control the weed.
"Each plant is capable of producing 150,000 air-borne seeds that can lie dormant in the soil for up to 20 years. This gives ragwort a great ability to spread very easily along such handy corridors as motorway and roadside verges, and invade fields and paddocks where animals graze.
"If eaten in a cut and dried state in hay or forage, ragwort is very toxic for horses, cattle and sheep, which die slow lingering deaths from progressive and irreversible liver damage."