Wednesday 8 August 2012

Wicked weeds

Goats are very inquisitive and try to sample everything that comes within their reach by nibbling and tasting. My fields seem to be infested with killer toxic weeds. Of the 223 UK plants poisonous to livestock that I found on one website, I have three, bracken wasn't listed.On their daily walks the goats will, from time to time, try to taste foxglove and bracken, there is some ragwort about but they show no interest yet.


All three are deadly killers in different ways. The entire foxglove plant is toxic and as its a biennial the basal leaves overwinter. It affects the heart and I have been told that you only have to touch a foxglove for your heart rate to change. Its deadly in very small quantities.


Like Foxglove the entire Ragwort plant, if eaten, causes irreversible liver damage and kidney failure but a very large amounts have to be eaten for this to happen. My goats ignore it completely. There is no legal requirement for occupiers of land to remove ragwort but DEFRA can under the, "Weeds Act" 1959 require the occupier of land to take action.

For more information Google the Ragwort facts website; see comment.


 I also have a plum tree and although the green leaves are not toxic; if the leaves wilt because of storm damage or frost and turn yellow they become deadly. On wilting glucosides in the leaf turn into hydrocycanic acid (HCN) and sugar. The sugar makes the leaves attractive to livestock and the HCN kills them, a few handfuls can kill a cow.

 Despite annual cutting there is bracken everywhere and animals will not normally eat it, the goats would have to eat large quantities over a long time but eventually fatal internal hemorrhages would occur.

Because the hill park is not fenced yet the kids are kept in their large loose box with a daily outing for browse and exercise so the danger of poisoning is minimal especially as they are well fed and not hungry. When they do go out to graze it may be necessary to keep them in at night to fill up on hay so that they are less likely to experiment with poisonous plants.


mabymynydd said...

There is no requirement to notify ragwort

Tom Bryson said...

Thank you. I have tried several times to get into the ragwort facts website but can't. Will keep on trying.

Tom Bryson said...

I have edited the blog in the light of information on the Ragwort Facts website.