Feeding, foot & coat care in donkeys

Feeding donkeys
  • Donkeys have a similar digestive system to the horse, where fibre is digested in the very large colon.
  • They also graze pastures in the same way where part will be used for grazing and part for defaecating.  The latter will grow rank and unpalatable.
  • Donkeys browse more than horses and love the flowering heads of broad-leaved weeds.
  • Roughage, e.g. barley straw should form a large part of their diet.
  • But donkeys must not be fed excess protein or they are quick to develop founder of the foot and become lame.
  • Donkey owners are urged to avoid giving their animals bread, wheat, breakfast cereals, puffed wheat, muffins, cake, pikelets, excess grains, and all refined and processed foods. 
  • Donkeys are very efficient at ring-barking trees.  They seem to enjoy the bark as feed and the chewing and stripping as entertainment.
  • Some donkey handlers stress that you should always feed donkeys in a bucket or trough and not with your fingers as they may learn to nip fingers with their teeth.
Feet care
  • Foot care is the most important feature in donkey husbandry.
  • Feet must be trimmed regularly and be kept in shape so they can always walk properly and without discomfort.
  • Misshapen feet lead to all sorts of behaviour and welfare problems, and the animal will suffer discomfort and pain.
  • If feet problems are caused by nutritional imbalance – feet trimming alone will not cure the problem.  Changes in diet are the first priority in preventing lameness.
  • Veterinarians claim that donkeys and mules can tolerate pain more than horses so they may not show lameness until the disease is more advanced.  So more regular checking of feet is recommended.
Coat care
  • Donkeys select a site in the paddock where all the animals will take turns to roll in it.   They will remember and return to it whenever they come back to the paddock.  It’s their natural way of dust bathing to control parasites.
  • If sheds or shelter trees are available, donkeys thrive better than when not wearing a cover.  After rain they will try to find some dry area and roll in any dust they can find.  This forms a 25mm thick coat that helps the animal to retain heat naturally.  Donkeys are prone to external parasites below covers.
  • Donkeys love physical contact and grooming fulfills this need.  They especially enjoy grooming when their winter coats are being shed for summer.
  • In wet climates, donkeys need protection from rain.  Wet coats are not good for donkeys as they are dry climate animals.
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