Advice Page 8

Feed and Water

Concentrate feeds, such as grain, are seldom needed by donkeys. However, growing youngsters and pregnant or nursing jennets may receive grain rations depending on their body condition. Donkeys need grain if they are use work (driving, packing, predator control in sheep, etc.).

Prepared horse feeds provide supplemental energy, protein, minerals and vitamins required by donkeys. Supplements formulated for cattle, pigs or poultry should not be used, because they may contain additives that are toxic (e.g. Rumensin). The average Small Standard donkey (approximately 44 inches tall and weighing 400- 500 lb) that does little or very light work in winter, requires only two handfuls of whole oats per day and some hay. Watch donkeys closely to determine whether they need more or less feed. Youngsters under the age of two and older donkeys that are more than 20-years-old have been found to do well on rolled oats or a 50 per cent rolled oat and 50 per cent rolled barley mix. Adult donkeys over the age of two years do well on good quality, clean whole oats.

An obese donkey should be fed only hay (2-4 flakes per day). A thick roll of fat along the crest of the neck indicates obesity in donkeys. This roll of fat is extremely hard to reduce once it has formed. Eventually the excess weight of the neck roll will cause it to fall over to one side of the neck, creating an unsightly malformation. Avoid placing the obese donkey on a starvation diet in the hope of rapidly removing excess weight.

The loss of more than 2 kg (4.4 lb) per month can precipitate metabolic disorders such as hyperlipaemia according to The Professional Handbook of the Donkey. Adult donkeys in good condition will eat the same amount of hay, plus the ration of concentrates mentioned above. Naturally the amounts fed will vary with the size and condition of the donkeys. Mammoths or miniatures need correspondingly more or less feed.

A rough guideline is to feed a total weight (hay plus grain ration) of 1kg of feed per 50kg of body weight (two pounds of feed per hundred pounds of body weight). For example:

  • A 450 lb donkey
    at rest – approximately 4 kg (9 lb) total feed (hay plus grain) daily.
    at work-approximately 5kg(11.25 lb) total feed daily

The more hard work required, the greater the amount of grain usually given providing the donkey does not become too energetic and hard to handle. For example:

  • A 450 lb donkey
    at rest – 0 to 1 lb grain plus 7-8 lb hay daily.
    at work – 1 to 2 lb grain plus 9-10 lb hay daily.
  • A 950 lb Mammoth donkey
    at rest – 0-2 lb grain plus 15-18 lb hay daily.
    at work – 4-5 lb grain plus 16-18 lb hay daily.

The donkey is more of a browser in his eating habits. Therefore, it is important to supply the donkey with free choice good quality barley or oat straw, along with his ration of hay and grain. Research at The Donkey Sanctuary in England has shown that straw in the ration may help the donkey produce natural biotin to improve skin and hoof condition. However, straw is a low quality feed and must not be used as a substitute for hay in the diets of donkeys.

Any animal that is frequently fed tidbits will spend its life looking for them and will soon learn, just as a horse or pony, to nip the hand with no food in it. Feed any treats in a tub on the ground while petting and talking to the donkey.