Ragwort: Advice on control and disposal

Environment and climate
An image of ragwort growing on a field

The NFU is reminding livestock farmers to remain vigilant to the risk of ragwort poisoning. Here's some advice on control and disposal.

Ragwort poses a real risk to animal health, with potentially fatal consequences if it is ingested by horses or livestock, either in its green or dried state. Left unchecked, a ragwort problem is likely to become worse, as the species is highly vigorous. A single specimen can produce up to 150,000 seeds with a germination rate of up to 70%.

Grazing land should be regularly inspected when animals are present and the plant should be pulled, removed and disposed of responsibly.

Ragwort is a toxic plant and suitable precautions must be taken when handling live and dead plants. Hands must be protected and arms and legs should also be covered. Cut and pulled flowering ragwort plants may still set seed.

Key resources:

When ragwort is on someone else's land

  • Where ragwort is found, the first step is to identify the land owner or manager. Then contact them directly to resolve the issue.
  • If this approach doesn’t work, complaints can be made to Natural England and enforcement notices can be issued requiring landowners to take action to prevent the spread of these weeds.
  • Natural England will investigate complaints where there is a risk that injurious weeds might spread to neighbouring land. It gives priority to complaints where there is a risk of spread to land used for grazing horses or livestock, land used for forage production and other agricultural activities.

The Weed Act 1959

Five weeds are classified as ‘injurious’ under the Weeds Act 1959 – common ragwort (Senecio jacobaea), spear thistle (Cirsium vulgare), creeping or field thistle (Cirsium arvense), broad-leaved dock (Rumex obtusifolius) and curled dock (Rumex Crispus).

It is not an offence to have these weeds growing on your land and species such as ragwort have significant conservation benefits. However, ragwort must not be allowed to spread to agricultural land, particularly grazing areas or land which is used to produce conserved forage.

Get further guidance on ragwort at the GOV.UK website.

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This page was first published on 28 July 2023. It was updated on 01 July 2024.

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