What is Ragwort (or Tansy Ragwort) and is it a Helpful or Harmful Plant?
What are the problems with ragwort?Horses, ponies, donkeys and mules as well as cattle are more at risk from ragwort poisoning than other livestock; with young animals being more in danger. Poisoning can occur at any time of the year, generally having a cumulative effect. A very small intake over a long period of time can be just as damaging as a large intake over a short period. Over time, liver cells are destroyed resulting in liver failure. Such damage may go unnoticed for months or years before being detected.
What are the clinical signs of ragwort poisoning?Symptoms first seen may include:
- Loss of condition/poor appetite
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Photosensitivity (sunburn) affecting unpigmented (pink) skin
- A possible jaundiced appearance
- Strange nervous behaviours
- Restless/aimless and uncoordinated movements/repetitive circling
- Possible blindness
- Head pressing against solid objects
- Abnormal gait and stance
- Loss of consciousness.
What are the helpful things about ragwort?It is not all doom and gloom. The National Trust confirm that they take a balanced view and recognise that, while ragwort does need controlling, it certainly should not be eradicated.
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