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Ragwort Warning

9 July 2019

Care should be taken when making silage and hay this year to avoid contamination from Ragwort. Ragwort has been on the increase over the last few years. Cattle and sheep are most at risk of poisoning from eating ragwort when ensiled in silage or hay but also watch out if grazing recently topped fields, especially if grass availability is tight and ragwort is drying out.

Although ragwort is unpalatable, once cut and ensiled the dead and wilted plant becomes more palatable and can contaminate the whole silage clamp.

Ragwort poisoning can cause permanent and irreversible changes in the liver that can ultimately lead to liver failure with toxins building-up over a period of weeks or months.  However, clinical signs of liver damage sometime take up to 18 months to be seen and often triggered by stress.  Loss of appetite, diarrhoea, staggering and swelling of the abdomen are all symptoms to look out for.

Sarah Balfour, sarah.balfour@sac.co.uk

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