A WEED that can prove deadly to horses is coming under the spotlight in a new national survey – but the problem is already prevalent locally, a Stafford councillor has said.
The British Horse Society aims to find out levels of awareness and concern about ragwort in the survey which was launched on Tuesday and supported by Defra.
Through the survey the charity will collect information on the perceptions and reality of the impact of ragwort to inform future measures to ensure the appropriate use of the Weeds Act 1959, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and other relevant legislation.
It is currently peak flowering season for ragwort, a distinctive yellow flowering weed which landowners are required by law to prevent spreading to neighbouring land. If eaten it can prove fatal for horses and harmful to livestock.
Doxey Parish councillor Neil Thomas told the Newsletter he had spotted what he believed to be ragwort in a field in Stafford, which was earmarked for housing off Ripon Drive.
"I was travelling up Radford Bank the other day when I notice a field south of the A34 which appeared to be covered in common ragwort," he said.
"When growing it tastes unpleasant and livestock will usually ignore it but, unusually among plants, it remains poisonous when dead and loses its unpleasant taste. It is important to keep it out of hay.
"Ragwort is covered by the Weeds Act of 1959, updated by the Ragwort Control Act of 2003. The law does not require the plant to be exterminated - which would be impossible since it is a native plant - but landowners are required to keep it under control. This is plainly not happening in the field of several acres off Radford Bank.
"I recently pulled up several plants from my own back garden. I shall also be removing it from round the balancing pond at Castlefields, although there is much less than at Radford Bank."
The BHS' survey runs until August 15 and can be found at www.bhs.org.uk/ragwort.