Report T013 ***

Problem: Ragwort infested pastures & grazed bank-sides
Where: Brownmoors Farm, Thixendale, North Yorkshire
When: March 2003
Status: Organic
Area: approx. 20.24 hectares (50 acres)
Detail: Visible small rosettes pulled as a demonstration. 28 man-hours

More-or-less permanent grazing from cattle & horses. Advise using more handwork & only cull ewes for grazing (see report)

This site was being winter-grazed by Exmoor ponies, in an effort to clear the long grass, and encourage wildflowers & herbs. Unfortunately they also ate the sweet areas of grass down to the soil, and caused a lot of disturbance with their hooves, especially towards their water supply. There is no doubt that continuous close grazing increases the success of Ragwort.

A workforce of four removed all visible rosettes from a section of approximately 6 acres of heavily infested pasture land. A small trailer was filled with seedling sized rosettes. Later in the year a small trial was set up to keep animals out of a 3m X 3m area that had been cleared of intensive plants, to see if grass or the resident seed-bank won the battle for survival. Unfortunately the fence was taken down, but not before there was evidence that animal exclusion was an important way forward, area by area.

Turf has to be allowed to repair and become tough enough to support lightweight animals.

Many plants emerged after March, and although the workforce did make some impact, 24 man-hours of work was not sufficient to begin the real task of clearing the site. Later in the year, the farmer used a forage harvester to collect as many of the flowering plants as he could. Warning: he is almost certain that the poisoned fumes generated by the mulching process made him pretty ill, albeit temporally.

Our recommendations to the farmer included:

  • No permanent grazing in winter. Restrict animal access.
  • Cull sheep would be better than cows or horses.
  • Vary the position of the water source.
  • Allow the turf to fully repair without any grazing over a trial area

He was uninclined to do too much, because he could remember Ragwort growing on his farm since he was a boy. He remembers some fields being almost entirely yellow.

Despite grazing both cattle & horses all his life, he thinks there is only one death (a cattle beast), which can be attributed to Ragwort.

Cost: £168.