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Vet for Hire by Russell Lyon

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I’ve been mentioning lately about my less thanperfect relations with local vets in the50’s and 60’s. ButRussell wasn’t one of them!

He was my vet after the problems I had with Ragwort until he went on to practice abroad. Russell always had an open mind and was a brilliant vet from a Scottish farming background. I was reading his book ‘Vet for Hire’ where he mentions me and many of the other farmers in the village of Welney – he also mentions that his father controlled Ragwort with sheep grazing – but was’nt sure if he would reccommend it. As I have touched on before, sheep can be used to keep ragwort down in controlled doses with regular checks of the sheep – it only becomes a problem when they ingest alot of it over a period of time.

I also touched on the fact that Irish farmers use sheep to keep their ragwort under control – they seem to have this down to a fine art on regularly grazed pastures only occasionaly coming unstuck when going onto to new pastures behind cows or horses where the incidence of ragwort is too high to tolerate.

Newmarket studs also take a flock of sheep around the stud keeping the ragwort in check and no harm comes to the sheep because they keep on top of it and they only eat a little.

Allowing sheep to eat ragwort is though a risky business – how much is too much? Initally they may thrive – you can put your hand on their backs and they feel healthy – the next week their condition can be gone!

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