We are all now fully aware that the ragwort plant when asked, is the most dangerous plant that our horses can digest but are you aware that another yellow peril potentially lurks in your paddocks –The Buttercup.
Horses that develop a taste for buttercups can end up with an excess of saliva, sometimes mild colic and also diarrhoea. Consumption levels do have to be high though, before any untoward symptoms are seen. Don’t panic too much as consuming the odd buttercup plant is not likely to be harmful.
How Do I Manage My Pastures?
You will need a herbicide and a change in management to remove buttercups from your pasture. Buttercups thrive in poor soil conditions. You may well find killing the current crop will only make room for more to grow. Change your management to prevent them taking over.
The most appropriate way to tackle tall-growing weeds such as buttercups is by “weed-wiping”, whereby a chemical weed-killer is smeared on to the leaves and stem of the plant from a wick attached to the tank holding the appropriate herbicide. The plant then absorbs the chemical through its leaves and dies from the inside out.
To encourage grass to grow, active grassland management will be needed, including applying a low level of appropriate fertiliser.
Your Horses Safety
It is essential that you remove your horses from the pasture for at least two weeks after “weed-wiping” to allow the full effects of the weed killer to take affect and to ensure that all residue of the chemicals used have dissipated making your pasture grass safe for them to eat once again.
Make sure that the herbicide application is done by a British Agrochemical Supply Industry Scheme (BASIS) accredited person. They are qualified to advise on appropriate herbicides. Most agricultural retailers either employ or have access to qualified people.
The good news is buttercups aren’t poisonous when they are dry, so don’t worry if you find them in hay or haylage. All they will do is dilute the nutritional value of the hay.
In short the occasional buttercup will not do any harm, but if your horses are grazing in fields full of buttercups then this is the time to take action.
The Stable Doctor
Advice is given without legal responsibility