THE NFU is calling on Herefordshire Council to take action over a weed which can kill livestock and horses.

The union says farmers have reported large infestations of Common Ragwort on public ground, with the weed posing a real risk to animal health.

There are several specified weeds under the Weeds Act 1959 that are considered injurious including spear thistle, creeping or field thistle, curled dock and broad-leaved dock.

Included in that list is Common Ragwort which can have potentially fatal consequences to horses and livestock if eaten in either its green or dried state.

The NFU is concerned that the weed is spreading to farm land from public land and is calling on councils and other authorities in the region to give reassurances that they are tackling the weed to control it.

Malcolm Roberts, NFU regional board chairman, said: “At home we have very low-level ragwort infestations, which we control as a priority every year by pulling it out or spraying where necessary.

“What really riles me is when I see it on land managed by public authorities where this weed is so thick it’s like it is being grown as a crop.

“While some authorities do say they spray the weed annually, normally in April, we have never been able to get to the bottom of how much and where.

“What has been mentioned is that pulling the weed out is no longer undertaken due to possible liver problems for operatives, although there is no evidence for this.

“If adequately protected and kitted out with overalls, gloves, and a rag fork I believe that any human health issue can be prevented.

“Under the Weeds Act 1959 authorities have a duty to control this plant and it is an offence to allow it to spread to agricultural land.

“We need to see infested areas at least topped to prevent the spread of the seed.

“Public authority spending might be tight but county and district councils, the Highways Agency and others are obliged to act – it is an offence to allow it to spread to agricultural land."