29/07/2014 at 16:25
The toxic effects of ragwort are extraordinary in that all parts of the plant are toxic, even when dead, also the toxic effect is cumulative such that when an animal shows symptoms treatment is not often successful.
A toxic dose can be can be eaten in one go or little by little over an extended period of time. Ragwort in preserved forage is certainly very dangerous as Bill has mentioned but if ragwort is in grazing it will be come more palatable as it seeds, wilts and dies back.
Sheep do come to harm if they eat ragwort especially if they are young. Older sheep can tolerate more but are not resistant as such. Ragwort affects a grazing animals, cattle and horses are particularly sensitive to ragwort poisoning and also chickens and pigs.
Ragwort poisoning is not easy to diagnose even at post mortem and yes liver damage can be due to many causes, but toxic it is and in my opinion keeping it out of grazing land and preserved forage is essential part of good livestock husbandry.
Bill regards this as hysteria, I regard his stance as dismissive of the problem. The fact that he and others aim to repeal the weeds act and ragwort control act may explain his position. These acts only require removal of ragwort where they are likely to spread to grazing land and land used to produce preserved forage so there are still plenty of other areas where ragwort can (and does) flourish.
Anyone who has any concerns about ragwort and animals in their care should speak to their vet