Understanding how a donkey's "body clock" and digestive system works is crucial to understanding why the high protein high fat feeds designed for horses are not the best feeds for donkeys. The ancestors of our donkeys adapted to thriving on sparse vegetation. Nature adjusted their digestive capabilities to efficiently wring every bit of nutrient out of the high fiber forage of grasses, weeds, twigs, thistles and tree bark to maintain their body condition on whatever browse they could find.
Being able to munch, then nap, then munch, then nap is the way a donkey's digestive system is designed to work so it is never empty. If we are not careful what type of feed, how much, and when we feed, we can trigger the feast and famine signals of their system that cause their metabolism to slow so they can conserve and store reserves of fat. When we see they are getting a little plump, the instinct is to cut back on the amount or the frequency of feeding and if they eat it all quickly their system gets empty before the next feeding time, and that causes their metabolism to slow even more.
To maintain body condition and avoid obesity requires a constant availability of forage and tricking your donkey's metabolism to speed up, not slow down. If you notice your donkey is getting plump do not reduce the amount of their forage (grass or hay). Grass hay is best. Avoid clovers and alfalfa. The time of day you feed them is important. Donkeys are night browsers so do not confine them at night. Allow them access to pasture so they will walk and nibble. It takes a lot of walking to eat enough for them to feel full and ready for a nap. If they are being fed hay, put it in their manger at night.
A simple feeding plan that will maintain healthy, active, thrifty donkeys that stay in breeding condition, performance ready, and show ring, sleek without developing fat necks and blubber butts mimics their natural low fat, high fiber diet and the best feeding program I have found is a Donkey Diet of whole oats, soaked beet pulp, vitamin-mineral supplement, and forage of grass or grass hay. The feeding plan is simple, low cost, and effective.
- Provide loose white salt instead of a salt block. Salt blocks are designed for a cow's rough tongue. There are salt blocks on the market now that are labeled for equine use, but I have tried them and they still are not as good as a container of loose white iodized salt. Donkeys consume more salt per cwt of bodyweight than a cow or a horse.
- Provide loose mineral instead of a trace mineral block.
- Provide access 24/7 to fresh water. Donkeys are fussy about their water. If there is slime in the tank the donkey will sniff and take a couple sips to quench his immediate thirst but will not tank up like he normally would. Donkeys drink a lot of water and if your donkeys are not consuming a sizeable amount then check to make sure your tanks are clean. Donkeys will not drink a sufficient amount of water if the water supply is dirty, stale, stinky, or scummy.
Worming Program for the Midwest
Use an efficient preventative worming program. A heavy internal parasite load slows the digestive system and increases the risks of organ and artery damage done by migrating larvae. The best worming program I have found is the 60 day rotational worming of Panacur or Safeguard (fenbendazole), Strongid (pyrantel pamoate), and Ivermectin. If a donkey has not been on the 60 day rotation worming program, they need to have the 5 day double dose by bodyweight of Panacur or Safeguard first, and then they can begin the rotational program.
January 1st: a single dose by bodyweight of Strongid (pyrantel pamoate).
March 1st: a single dose by weight of Ivermectin.
May 1st:. a single dose of Panacur or Safeguard (fenbendazole)
July 1st: Double dose rate of Strongid (pyrantel pamorate)
September: a single dose of Ivermectin
November 1st: after frost double dose for 5 days in a row Panacur (Safeguard).
A dental checkup at least once a year checking for sharps hooks, and waves for mature donkeys (5 years and older) and twice a year dental checkups starting when your donkey is 1 month old for donkeys under 5 years old. Dental problems caught early can be corrected or lessened to save the donkey a lifetime of dental problems.
Avoid prepared horse feeds. They are designed for a horse's digestive system and contain added fat that donkeys do not need and can do more harm than good because they slow a donkey's metabolism and increase stress on their liver and kidneys.
Shredded beet pulp is preferable to pellet beet pulp, but whichever you can get soak the beet pulp in water until it is thoroughly soaked then add the other ingredients and thoroughly stir it in. The shredded beet pulp is ready in 10-15 minutes. Pelleted beet pulp may take an hour or two to expand and soften. Soaking the beet pulp to create a watery soup encourages the donkey to eat slowly and savor every morsel to satisfy their appetite.
An example of a miniature diet:
For a mature (5 years or over) jack, gelding, open or pregnant jennet weighing 250-300 pounds per day: ½ cup of whole oats (not crimped, steamed, or rolled), ½ cup of shredded beet pulp soaked in ½ cup of water, and 1 teaspoon of Manna Pro Sho-Glo vit-min supplement twice a day or if once a day in the evening if possible.
For immature stock (under 5 years old) increase the amount of whole oats, shredded beet pulp, and water by twice as much. For nursing jennets increase the amount of whole oats, shredded beet pulp, and water by twice as much.
If you who are totally new to miniature donkeys, maybe you would like more information about the care and answers to some of the frequently asked questions about miniature donkeys.
GENERAL CARE AND HEALTH
- New born foals weigh between 20 to 25 pounds depending on their size. At the withers they are from 19 to 24 inches tall at birth.
- Miniature donkeys grow to approximately 90 % of their adult height by the time that they are a year old.
- Depending on their size adult miniature donkeys can weigh anywhere from 200 to 350 pounds.
- It takes about twelve months and two weeks of pregnancy for a miniature donkey to develop prior to being born.
- Foals are normally weaned from nursing their mothers at 5 to 6 months of age.
- Donkeys can be trained and shown pulling a cart and show in other performance classes such as obstacle course classes.
- Miniature donkeys can easily pull a cart and move their own weight. Consideration must be given to the terrain and footing that the cart will be riding on.
- We discourage all but very small children from riding our miniatures. We consider anything more than 20% of the donkey's body weight a significant load to carry. Miniatures are not generally considered as riding donkeys. You need at least a standard size to ride or be a guard donkey.
- Having had both full sized horses and miniatures, we feel that the personality of miniatures is substantially more easy going than full sized horses or mules.
BREEDING AND FOALING
- Miniature donkeys consume primarily pasture grass and hay.
- A single miniature donkey can be reasonably maintained on as little as 1/2 acre of land and the donkey is also provided with a three sided structure for shade or to get in out of the rain or other inclement weather conditions since they don't want to be closed in a stall.
- Miniature donkeys, depending on their age, size and whether they are also on pasture, will consume in the range of 2 to 4 pounds(about a 4" flake) of good quality grass hay per day.
- Generally hooves of miniatures are trimmed at two month intervals in the summer and three months in the winter. With younger donkeys (yearlings and younger) while they are growing trim at least every two months to assure proper leg development.
- Donkeys are usually wormed on a two month routine wormers. Veterinarians should be consulted for advice on annual vaccination programs for donkeys to prevent common diseases.
- Annual dental care(floating) is important.
- In the winter the miniature donkey gets a very long coat and it can be very deceiving about how their weight is holding. It is important to actually check the donkeys condition by rubbing the fingers across the ribs of the donkey just below the backbone. If a "washboard" feel is evident, the donkey is probably underweight and the feed ration should be increased.
- We usually breed our jennets no earlier than four years of age out of concern for adequate physical development of the jennet at time of foaling. Others breed at two and three years. We believe this practice leads to more difficult birthing problems. It is not uncommon, however, for jennets to remain immature until four or older.
- Many jacks are fertile as two year olds. As with jennets, many others are not sexually mature until they are older.
- Breeding is accomplished by either turning the jack out into the pasture with a jennet. This is known appropriately as "pasture breeding". Breeding is also accomplished by introducing the jack to the jennet when she is in heat and handlers controlling the jack while the jennet is tied to a post during the breeding process. This method is known as "hand breeding"
- The normal foaling window is between 365 and 375 days after conception.
- The birthing process under normal circumstances occurs very rapidly. If there are no complications, the foal is usually born within 30 minutes from the time that the jennet begins active "pushing" labor.
- Foals are generally very strong and active within a couple of hours of birth. They usually nurse vigorously from 4 to 7 times per hour.
- Prices of miniature donkeys vary widely depending on quality of the donkey, area of the country purchased, color, pedigree, sex and numerous other factors. Starting prices for miniature donkeys vary depending on whether you want a companion animal with prices graduating up from there based on show potential, elegance of conformation, previous show record, notoriety of parentage and farm where purchased, etc.
If you have specific questions that are not answered here, you can E-Mail us and we will try to provide an answer for you.
Conformation for a donkey is a skeletal structure with the appropriately proportioned bone lengths to create strong, supporting, and shock absorbing joints. His skeleton supports and protects his internal organs. Structure governs the mechanics of their motion determining the amount of energy that must be expended to move their body. A well-structured donkey has a mechanically efficient structure that expends less energy in moving and is better able to support their own bodyweight or that of an additional burden such as a rider or pregnancy.
Conformation has nothing to do with color, size, or pedigree. To have "conformation" requires a proportional structure with four mechanically sound legs. Conformation is not compromised by size or by age. They are born with the structure they inherit from their parents. When both parents carry the genetics of good structure, the offspring inherit the genetics of good structure. One mechanically sound parent and one mechanically weak parent will produce an offspring that may appear mechanically sound, but it will be carrying the genetics for mechanical weakness.
Not all structural weaknesses are obvious and often can be missed when disguised by layers of body fat, but conformation is the skeletal structure, and no amount of body fat can change a poor skeletal structure into a strong, healthy structure.
The Legend of "The Donkey's Cross"
"Bring me the colt of a donkey," was the Master's request.
A young donkey was brought to Jesus to carry Him into Jerusalem.
A week later Jesus was ordered crucified.
The little donkey so loved the Lord that he wanted to help Him carry the cross.
But alas, he was pushed away.
The sad little donkey waited to say goodbye until nearly all had left.
As he turned to leave, the shadow of the cross fell upon his back and shoulders.
And there it has remained, a tribute to the loyalty and love of the humblest of God's
Copyright 2005 Vicki Knotts Abbott