It’s important to think about what we feed our donkeys. What goes into the inside will certainly show up on the outside. Since donkeys are prone to fat depots we need to be vigil about how much and what they consume.
First, we need to remember where this species originated. Originally they were found on the desert and did very well on sparse feed. So forget the alfalfa and the high protein hays that are way to rich for a donkey. Your best hay choice should be good clean grass hay that is available to them all the time. You ask, “Will they over eat”? They may at first if they are not used to having feed available all the time. Donkeys love to play and if given the room they need any extra calories will soon be burned off. If you feed by the flake make sure there is hay in front of them at all times. Remember the act of processing hay in the winter is what helps to keep them warm. Some donkeys will eat more than they need so you do need to use your best judgement. The sides of our new feeder will fold up and prevent them from pulling hay out to snack on. When it’s dinner time, all I do is to let the sides back down so they have access to the hay.
There is a round bale in the pasture for Teamdonk almost year around. Even in the spring and early summer when the grass is green they still go to the hay to fill up before browsing on the fresh pasture grasses. No matter what time of the year it is they will consume what they need when they need it. After all donkeys are browsing animals and need to eat small amounts regularly. We notice our boys, eat, play, nap and later come back to eat repeating this process around the clock. The round bales work very well and we recommend they be fed in some sort of a metal feeder. We monitor their hay and check for signs of dust and mold and how the hay is holding up to inclement weather. Having a roof over the hay has been a huge help. Note: in the winter months with the cold and wet donkeys do need more hay, not grain, to keep warm.
We have tried the hay nets with the larger spaces, at least 1 3/4 inches, and found they work very well. Feeding the bale with the net over it on the ground the donkeys can get a hoof through the netting and I did not like that so we moved the bale with the hay net to the round bale feeder. If there is some hay they do not like the net prevents them from digging thru the bale to get to the better hay, that is the only down side that we found.
Teamdonk has had amazing success with a feed program that was offered to me years ago. We no longer fight with the dry skin itches or sores, or cracked hooves that show up during the cold months, both of these conditions are now past history. Colic has never been a problem for us either, knock on wood!
This is how the original tried and true recipe from Vicky Abbot for supplementing donkeys has evolved.
One cup of Standlee Grass Hay Pellets per animal soaked in one cup of water for about 30 minutes before feeding. After the hay pellets break down I have corn oil in a plastic condiment server and I squirt a small amount of oil over the hay pellets. I add a half to a whole chopped apple, depending on the size of the apple to each of the buckets. Then one five inch x one inch carrot, chopped into coin size pieces again for each feed bucket.
Mix these ingredients together and add to the soaked hay pellets with oil, the apple and the carrot.
1 oz dry molasses
1 heaping Tablespoon of Magnesium Oxide
2 ounces of a foal milk replacer, I use Purina’s Mare’s Match but Unimilk or Grade A are also good.
1/4 teaspoon of loose mineral salt
Add this to the mixture and top with 1 cup of LMF Low Non-Structural Carbohydrate Complete Vitamin and Mineral feed. I only use a small amount of what is recommended for horses and recommend feeding donkeys a low impact supplement such as Sho-Glo which is easier to obtain than the LMF in many parts of the country. I like a supplement that contains Sel-Plex which is an Organic Selenium that is more easily absorbed than a man made Selenium so I do watch for that feature.
Stir it all together and you’ll have donkeys talking to you before you can get it out the door to them!
Most of these products can be found at your local feed store. The Magnesium Oxide and the dry Molasses come in large quantities and will need to be stored in plastic containers with lids.
When you first introduce any changes to a feeding program it is recommended to go slowly. Simply cut back the soaked hay and add only a small amount to the product you now feed. Over time slowly decrease what you are currently feeding and increase the hay mash. It may take your donkey about a month to eat every bit and lick the bucket clean. Once they start they’ll be asking for it daily.
The Whys… These nutrients together will increase a donkey’s energy level, which will increase his metabolism, a win/win situation!
Magnesium Oxide helps to reduce the neck crests and fat pockets donkey naturally get. Magnesium is also known to play an important part in reducing equine obesity, and can lessen the risk of laminitis in animals prone to it during periods of strong spring grass growth. Magnesium plays an important part in nerve and muscle function, and animals deficient in this important element can show signs of nervousness, wariness, excitability, and muscle tremors. A deficient horse (donkey) is likely to have a poor tolerance to work and its muscles will tie up quite quickly, donkeys don’t seem to have this problem. The Magnesium Oxide is very bland tasting so donkeys have no problem eating it.
Dry Molasses (not wet) is used as a binder to keep the dust down and for increased palatability in many horse feeds. I don’t really feel this is an essential part of the recipe. Many are worried about the sugars in dry molasses, really there is not enough in a daily dose to do any harm. By mixing all the ingredients into a hay mash there is no dust anyway. I think it must taste good to them and that is really the only reason I still have it in the feed program.
The foal milk replacer is a good subsidy to aid in the replacement of the lower calcium and phosphorous levels in the grass hay. It is an easily digestible source of the protein Keratin which is needed for hoof growth and benefits bones, teeth, hair and skin. Purina’s Foal Lac is loaded with a great assortment of nutrients that are very beneficial.
A loose salt mixture with a good variety of free-choice minerals is important for them to have access to even if you feed only pasture or hay. My current choice for salt is American Stockman Se-30 Trace Mineralized Salt with Selenium. Our area is deficient in Selenium. This product also contains Zinc, Iron, Manganese, Iodine and Cobalt. It’s very important for our donkey friends to have access to these nutrients at least once a day in loose form along with plenty of clean water. I hang salt buckets near their water daily especially on days when I can keep the salt dry. Your donkeys will thank you for both. Salt and Mineral blocks don’t work as well but are better than not feeding anything at all.
Clean water that is warmed in the winter is a must, they actually will drink more when it is cold which keeps everything on the inside working smoothly without colic and compaction problems.
“Feed Flax” my farrier recommended. We were fighting dry cracking hooves, white line disease and other hoof ailments. After doing a great deal of internet research and a recommendation from my local feed store friends I decided to try it. Twice a week I grind an ounce of seeds for each of the feed buckets.
Buy flax seed/linseed from your local health food or feed store or anywhere you can purchase the whole seed. Store your seeds in a cool dark place and they will last a long time. Using a coffee bean grinder, pulverize the seeds into a powder. Chop up only what you need as the powder will go bad very quickly. The reason you need to crush the seed is that they are so small the seeds will pass thru the system undigested. This is a photo of feed grade flax that I get from my local livestock feed dealer.
Flax seed has a high concentration of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, that animals cannot produce in their bodies and are an essential part of the diet. Benefits include a nice shiny coat and healthy skin, strong resultant hooves; it helps to prevent compaction and is a great sand colic prevention. One of the benefits I find is that the little beggars’ lice and the cockleburs easily brush out during the fall and winter months.
Flax nutritional values: 22-26% crude protein, 18 MJDE/kg, 7% fiber, 31% oil, mild laxative, antioxidants, Omega 3 fatty acids, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, decreases recovery time from strenuous exercise if mash is fed after exercise, improves hoof condition, relieve arthritic and inflammatory pain, keeps less desirable saturated fats mobile in the blood stream, increases oxygen uptake to the cells, improved skin and coat condition, valuable source of energy. Flax is great to feed during the cold months; mash fed twice per week or during times of stress helps to prevents weight loss. Note: the protein level in flax seed is scarie high for a donkey and that is the reason behind feeding only 1 to 1 ½ ounces of seeds per animal no more than twice a week with several days in between the feedings. My thoughts have always been less is best with flax, but it is worth the effort.
The down side to feeding flax is again not to overfeed it. You don’t want to plug up the liver is what I have been told. Do not use add flaxseed (linseed) oil to their diet, it is not the same as flax seed and does not replace it.
Did you notice that I am not feeding corn? Donkeys do not process corn well so it is not in my program. The other product that I do not feed very often are plain or rolled oats. When I want to give the boys a treat for coming into their pen I will feed a cup of oats mixed with a cup of Standlee hay pellets. It makes a nice treat for them and I appreciate when they come to me rather than me going to to catch someone.
There you have it all of the Teamdonk feeding secrets. I am feeding four Mammoth Donkeys between 14 and 15 hands and under a thousand pounds at less than $2.20 each per day. Take a look at their coats in any of my photos to see that hopefully they are healthy donkeys from the inside out!