Advice Page 12

Gestation and Care of Jennet During Gestation


Jennets not only show variation in the signs before foaling, they can foal at any time of the day or night, so close observation is important.

Jennets will be restless, walk the box stall, lay down and get up repeatedly. When the cervix is fully dilated, the water bag protrudes into the vagina and ruptures releasing amniotic fluid which lubricates the passageway for the foal.

The jennet will then start to strain hard and a pair of tiny forefeet will soon appear. As more of the front legs emerge the nose of the foal will be seen resting on the front legs. This is the normal birth position. Do not hurry the jennet or pull on the foal’s feet. Unless there is a problem in the presentation of the foal, the jennet will handle the birth unaided in 15 to 30 minutes.

If the jennet has been straining hard for 20 minutes and no foal appears, or the front feet appear but no nose, or only one foot shows, call a veterinarian. These signs of malpresentation require expert assistance if both the jennet and foal are to come through the process of birth alive and well.

As the neck appears, the head may start to move and break the membrane that encloses the foal. If it does not, tear the membrane open and wipe the foal’s nostrils clear of mucus to help it breathe.

Do not cut the navel cord. The jennet will break the cord when she gets up. She will then lick her foal dry. This licking action is important, especially with first foaling jennets, because it stimulates the mothering instinct of the jennet and prevents chilling of the newborn. The jennet will usually expel the afterbirth (placenta) within half an hour. If the afterbirth has not been expelled within 6 to 8 hours call for veterinary assistance. A retained placenta can cause infection or laminitis (founder).

Care of Newborn Donkey Foals

Once the umbilical cord has broken, dip the foal’s navel stump in a five per cent iodine solution to prevent umbilical infection. The jennet and foal should be watched to make sure the foal stands and nurses. It is vital to the foal’s health that it drink the colostrum, or first milk, which is rich in antibodies. If the foal is the jennet’s first offspring, she may not want to nurse and it may be necessary to hold or tie the jennet while helping the foal to nurse for the first time.

Watch for the foal to pass the meconium or first manure. These hard pellets are often passed as the foal struggles to stand before nursing. If a foal does not pass the meconium during the first 12 to 24 hours and shows signs of raising its train and straining without results, then a veterinarian should be called to administer an enema or mineral oil to stimulate the passage of the meconium.

Donkey foals have a thick, fluffy coat which fives the appearance of warmth and hardiness compared to horse foals, but such is not the case. donkey foals are not very hardy and require suitable shelter especially for the first two weeks of life. Foals that are soaked by rail easily become chilled and may contract bronchitis or pneumonia, which can be fatal. If this occurs bring the wet foal into the barn, rub it down will with towels and leave the foal inside until it is thoroughly dry.

Between the ages of two weeks to a months foals start nibbling at the jennet’s feed. At the time a foal can be fed a commercial foal ration separately in a small pen constructed with an opening just large enough for foals to enter. Foals will learn to use the creep feeder within tow to four weeks.

Diarrhea may be seen in foals at age of nine to ten days when the jennet starts her “foal heat”. The condition usually disappears within a few days, and the foal is unaffected. If the condition persists or the foal is obviously neither feeling well or nursing normally then a veterinarian should be called.

Donkey foals can be weaned at four to six months of age. Weaning at three months or earlier is not recommended. Foals that are weaned early will require extra care and attention.


Jennets return to heat nine to ten days after foaling, however breeding is not recommended during the first heat. The rate of conception at this time is low, and the reproductive tract may not have returned to normal. Jennets are usually far more concerned about their young foals at this time and are more likely to be upset by the presence of the jack. On the second or third heat after foaling, jennets are more relaxed and receptive to the jack, foals can be kept in a pen or box stall close by the breeding area with few problems, and conce tion is more likely to occur.

The time lapse involved in rebreeding combined with the length of a jennet’s gestation, means that breeders will likely obtain less than of one foal per year. These factors make it more logical to plan for three foals in a four year period.

Source: Agdex467/20-1. November 1990.