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Are Buttercups Poisonous To Horses?

A field full of buttercups can be a beautiful sight. But could the little yellow flowers pose a danger for your horse?

The Dangers

There are several types of buttercups, including Creeping, Bulbous and Meadow. Each variety can pose a risk to your horse. These flowers thrive best in fields with poor quality soil, on open grasslands and in old meadows. Thankfully buttercups have a bitter taste, so most horses will avoid eating them.

Despite their bitter taste, buttercups can still be a danger. Horses on a restricted diet may turn to eating them if other forage isn’t plentiful. The effects of buttercups can cause diarrhoea, colic and excessive salivation if consumed in large quantities. They can also cause irritation just from contact. Toxins in the plant which are at their highest during flowering can cause irritation to the lower limbs, lips and muzzles. If your horse has white colouring in these areas it could be even more susceptible to irritation.

The toxins found in buttercups which cause irritation are also more potent in wet conditions. This can make the springtime particularly problematic. Thankfully buttercups pose no risk in their dried form. There is no need to worry about buttercups getting into your hay supply as by this stage they are completely harmless.

How to Get Rid of Buttercups

There are several factors to consider when deciding how to deal with buttercups on your land. Herbicide is the easiest way to deal with buttercups but does require some forward planning. The species of buttercup growing on your land will determine the timing needed when applying the herbicide and the number of applications required.

These guidelines should prove useful for most types of buttercups that you come across. The most important step is to ensure you apply herbicide as soon as the plants start to grow. you should do this before the plants start to flower, otherwise it will be ineffective. Typically, this is at the start of spring.

It is important that the land is dry when herbicide is applied. The buttercups should be free of moisture to ensure they absorb enough herbicide to take effect. Also check your local weather forecast before applying herbicide, as you will achieve best results if the herbicide has up to 12 hours on the plants before being rain washes it away. Also avoid applying herbicide after frosty periods.

Don’t worry if you miss this crucial window of time before flowering. Also don’t worry if some of the buttercups survive – as there is a second opportunity to treat them during the year. September is also an ideal time to act, again before the plants start to flower.

Harrowing and digging out clumps of growth is an alternative option to removing buttercups from your land. Especially if you are only dealing with small amounts rather than widespread growth.

It is important to note that some species respond better to different treatments. For example, Creeping buttercups can easily be removed by harrowing and digging. For Bulbous buttercups though you may need to administer repeated treatments of herbicide, as their complex root structure helps them to survive and regrow.

What You Need To Know

If you decide to use herbicide to treat buttercups on your land you must ensure you remove horses from that land before starting. They must also remain off the land for a minimum of two weeks after applying the herbicide.

Preventative measures can be put in place to help keep buttercups at bay. Preventing overgrazing and utilising grass management can all be effective. The more grass you have growing, the less space there is for the buttercups to take root and grow in.

Finally, there are many options available if you decide to use herbicides. As there are many active ingredients used which all vary in strength, it is important to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Some herbicides even require a license for purchase and application, so always seek the advice of a qualified contractor when dealing with these.

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