Ragwort concern for Cheshire farmers

AUTHORITIES in Cheshire are being urged by farming leaders to get to grips with ragwort – a toxic plant which poses serious risks to animal health.

NFU’s Nantwich group secretary, Louise Young, added: “Ragwort in south Cheshire is rife and it’s a particular problem in areas adjacent to where cows graze or fields where winter fodder is being grown.

“The weed is a major concern for farmers in the area as it poses a significant danger to livestock and horses with potentially fatal consequences if ingested.”

Farmer Nick Morris of Baddington House, Nantwich, who rears suckler beef calves on 200 acres of land near to a railway line, feels his farm is being ‘invaded’ from all sides by ragwort. He claims the weed putting his young stock at risk, especially if it infects fields where the grass will eventually be dried, clamped and used to feed the calves throughout the winter months.

“The railway embankments on either side of the tracks near to my land are entirely yellow in colour because of ragwort,” said Mr Morris.

“It’s a disgrace. Over the years the problem has progressively got worse, to the point where it’s now spreading from the embankments to fields which surround my farm. I’m unable to remove the ragwort which surrounds the train tracks as I’d be trespassing. I feel totally helpless.”

Defra is empowered under the Weeds Act 1959  to serve notice requiring an occupier of land, on which ragwort is growing, to take action to prevent it from spreading. It has no legal obligation to take action and will therefore tend to prioritise its resources on land where the ragwort is likely to impact negatively on livestock, conservation or agricultural activities.