Feeding Miniature Donkeys: To feed or not to feed?
Published in Asset Magazine
Joyce BergHansen, WolfHeart Ranch
Miniature Donkeys to feed or not to feed? This should not be a question, however, it is asked frequently by donkey owners at many experience levels. A certain hysteria has been created to prevent obese Miniature Donkeys. In the process the opposite outcome has developed, Miniature Donkey owners often believe feeding their Miniature Donkey processed feed or grain is taboo.
Miniature Donkeys may not need to eat large quantities of grain or processed feeds but they still require balanced nutrition. Too many new Miniature Donkey owners are being told their donkey does not need anything more to eat than pasture or hay. They are told grain or processed feed should be fed only as a treat. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, pasture nutrient levels can vary greatly from week to week. Rain, drought, freezing temperatures, extreme heat, fertilizer, and soil quality all contribute to the nutrient levels found in a pasture. So how do you regulate the donkey’s diet when you do not know the percentage of any given nutrient that is present in the pasture from week to week? A high quality processed feed is guaranteed to meet the nutrient levels listed in the feed analysis provided with each bag of feed.
Miniature Donkeys need nutrition just like any other animal. There are many times in a donkey’s life when proper nutrition is critical. In the first two years of your donkey’s life, they grow the most rapidly. Nutrition is required for developing bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, organs, teeth, hooves, hair, and skin. Without the required protein, vitamins and minerals you may be compromising your donkey’s structural development. Have you ever seen a picture of a young child that has not received adequate nutrition? Many times, they have limb deformities or undeveloped muscles. Children have higher nutritional requirements than adults do because they are using those extra nutrients to grow. Weanling Miniature Donkeys have increased nutritional requirements as well.
A bred jennet has a different set of nutritional requirements necessary to provide proper fetal development. It is more challenging to feed the bred jennet because while she has some additional nutritional requirements it is critical not to overfeed her. This is when feeding is part science, part art. The bred jennet should be closely monitored to determine she is not adding fat to her expanding body. It is an art to visually evaluate your donkey’s body condition. In addition to a visual evaluation, run your hands over the areas Miniature Donkeys tend to carry excess weight if you feel fat developing along the loin, over the croup or in the neck decrease the amount of feed available to the jennet but do not discontinue supplementing her nutrition. There are feeds available that provide vitamins and minerals without adding additional calories.
Once a jennet has delivered her foal, she has another set of nutritional needs. Not only must she maintain her own body condition, she is now the main source of nutrition for her foal. If her milk is lacking in quality her foal’s development is compromised. She is eating for two. It should not be inconceivable to heartily increase the quantity of processed feed or grain and hay being fed to the lactating jennet. The foal will not be able to absorb enough nutrients from processed feed or grain and hay until they are a few months old. There are supplements available for the orphaned foal but those should only be fed if the foal is indeed orphaned.
The next important point is protein percentages in feed. If the new donkey owner is told to feed their donkey concentrated feed they are told to only feed a feed with a low percentage of protein. Growing donkeys, pregnant donkeys, nursing donkeys all need a feed that provides at least 12% protein. A concentrated feed with 12% protein is very versatile; you can vary the amount fed to meet the various nutritional needs of just about any donkey. A good rule to follow is: Do not feed less protein, feed less feed.
(One side note: senior donkeys have lower protein requirements that are not being addressed in this article.)
Another issue is feed quality, a cheaper feed is not cheap because the manufacturer is benevolent, and it is cheap because it generally contains ingredients that are lower in quality. Feed manufacturers use a variety of products called fillers to increase volume. Would you knowingly feed rice hulls for nutrition? Rice hulls are a good example of filler. Always buy the best quality feed you can afford. You will find quality feed nutritionally balanced and much more consistent in texture. The old adage, “you get what you pay for” rings loud and clear in processed feel brands. Sometimes the more expensive feed is cheaper in the long run because you feed less quantity given the superior quality. Call the feed manufacturer and talk to them about how their feed should be fed to your donkey. Most reputable feed manufacturers have a nutritionist that you can talk to about your animal’s nutritional requirements. Depending on the size of your herd several feed companies have field representatives that will visit your farm and analyze you pasture or hay and make feed recommendations.
Finally, remember the weather affects the nutritional needs of the Miniature Donkey. While Miniature Donkeys can brave cold winter weather they do need additional fuel to keep them warm. An old wives tale suggests corn will create heat to keep your animal warm on a cold winter night. Corn is not the answer. The donkey needs hay for warmth. When hay is digested it generates the heat needed to keep your Miniature Donkey warm on a cold winter night. So remember, the colder the weather the more fuel will be needed. When the weather is harsh and cold increase the amount of hay you make available to your donkey.
As a society we are continuously bombarded with news that we overfeed our house pets, husbands, and children. Feeding Miniature Donkeys takes a certain skill in determining the perfect balance between too little and too much feed. Keep in mind; underfeeding is just as unhealthy as overfeeding. If you are not sure what the proper body condition is for a Miniature Donkey call your local extension office and ask the equine extension specialist to visit your farm to help you evaluate your Miniature Donkey’s body condition and your feeding program. There are many knowledgeable breeders throughout the country that are happy to share their feeding programs with novice donkey owners too.
Why Show a Miniature Donkey?
Published in Asset Magazine
By Joyce BergHansen, WolfHeart Ranch
adventure in competition
Have you ever wondered why people show miniature donkeys? My non-donkey acquaintances think I’m a little crazy when I talk about the hours of preparation spent clipping, washing and working my donkeys. They do not understand why I choose to spend money on show halters, grooming supplies and stall fees. Then they wonder about the self induced anxiety associated with hauling my donkeys to a show when I never feel adequately prepared. They might understand my behavior if showing Miniature Donkeys came with fame, glamour, or money but just to show for the sheer fun is not a concept a non-donkey person can conceptualize. So why do people show miniature donkeys? There are a number of positive reasons people show their donkeys.
Camaraderie with others that share your Miniature Donkey passion is a common purpose of attending a Miniature Donkey Show. Sharing time with other donkey folk is fun. The subculture of any hobby, business, or sport almost always has the “Camaraderie Factor” as a driving force that brings participants to a common location to share their passion. How many of your non-donkey acquaintances appreciate the efforts you put into making sure your show donkey is groomed to perfection?
Traveling around the country is an exciting bonus when showing Miniature Donkeys. Some people would not leave home to sightsee but they are happy to hop in their truck and drive twenty hours to show their Miniature Donkey. Many show folk combine a vacation with the show. It is a great way to see and experience the country. We love showing in Virginia because the trip has such spectacular scenery.
Spending quality time and sharing a common activity with your family is a great reason to show Miniature Donkeys. Showing with the family is a wholesome, educational, bonding experience. Teaching your children the rules of sportsmanship, teaching them to be responsible caretakers and spending quality time together is a natural by-product of showing Miniature Donkeys. Showing can build self-confidence and self-esteem in every member of the family.
Earlier this year we attended Cheers for Ears. There was a particularly outstanding father that hauled several kids to the show so they could compete in the Costume Class. It was hard to say who was more excited about the event, the kids, or the father. The kids dressed in Civil War costumes. The boys were Confederate Soldiers and the girls were Southern Ladies tending to their soldiers. The entourage included two donkeys, one donkey pulled a wagon with a cannon, the other donkey pulled a travois with one of the boys portraying a wounded soldier. Can you imagine the effort it took to put the kids, donkeys, costumes and equipment together? They will look back on their youth and always remember the special lengths their dad went to in order for them to have a really fun experience. Incidentally, they won the Blue Ribbon.
Showing Miniature Donkeys should motivate breeders to continue to improve the breed. Even though show results can vary dramatically from show to show, showing still remains a great way to compare your donkeys to what other breeders are accomplishing with their breeding program. Someone once said “You are only as good as your competition” and that holds true for Miniature Donkeys.
Finally, showing is great for Miniature Donkey public relations. It is amazing to see spectators at a State Fair Donkey Show express their surprise at how beautiful the donkeys look as they are led into the show ring. When the performance classes are taking place, you can see the amazement of the crowd as the Miniature Donkeys compete in Driving, Snigging, Trail, and Coon Jumping. Most spectators are astonished at the versatility of the Miniature Donkey.
So next time you are getting ready to show your Miniature Donkey and you are dog tired from all the preparation it takes to show, remember that you are contributing to a greater cause. You are making friends, seeing the country, spending time with your two and four-legged family while helping to improve the breed. Most importantly, you are promoting one of the most under appreciated, misunderstood, incredibly wonderful animals in our world, the Miniature Donkey.
Some important do’s and don’ts learned while showing miniature donkeys:
WolfHeart’s Doc O’ Leo aka “Leftie”
Published in the Asset Magazine
By Joyce BergHansen, WolfHeart Ranch
Our Miniature Donkey gelding Leftie has always taken his Ambassador of the Breed duties very seriously. We like to think of him as a modern day working donkey with several very important jobs. His current resume includes 4-H Instructor, Community Fundraiser, State Fair Publicity Agent, Trick Donkey, Herd Protector, Halter Donkey, and Internet Personality. No opportunity to represent the Miniature Donkey is too big or too small to enlist the services of Leftie.
Clemson University hosts three hundred 4-H members at their annual 4-H Horse Camp. The extension agent from our area called me in the spring and asked if I would bring some donkeys to the camp and give a lecture pertaining to the donkey. Leftie was the perfect donkey to assist in my presentation. He has a presence that draws in children of all ages. Most of the “horse kids” had never been close to a Miniature Donkey. Of course they all wanted to take Leftie home.
Lila Doyle Nursing Home is an animal friendly place. The administration strongly advocates animal therapy for their patients. The staff of the nursing home sponsored a fund raiser fair that included a petting zoo. Proceeds were earmarked to support the animals that reside at the facility. Leftie was the perfect donkey to work the petting zoo portion of the fair. He seems to understand the curiosity of young children as they cautiously put out a hand to get their first touch. Leftie accommodates all the children from the timid to the bold.
Leftie loves a good State Fair. We have attended Miniature Donkey shows at the Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina State Fairs in the past three years. Whenever we are not showing we try to find someway in which Leftie can mingle with the crowd. In 2004, while attending the Dixie Classic Fair in North Carolina we got permission to walk Leftie outside of the livestock area and into the general fairgrounds. Leftie was a hit. He tried to order a funnel cake, get his weight guessed and ride on the carousel. His poised and relaxed manner in a crowd always amazes the fairgoers.
When we have visitors to our ranch Leftie is always center stage. They always think Leftie is cute while he fetching his ball or his favorite hoola hoop. He gets to have fun but his purpose is an important one on and off our ranch. While at home he serves as a herd protector for our weanling Miniature Donkey foals. At the shows he helps promote our ranch’s breeding program. Leftie has always placed in Miniature Donkey Halter classes when he was a jack and now as a gelding. In 2004, he stood NMDA Reserve Champion Gelding at Cheers for Ears and The Great Mule and Donkey Celebration.
Finally, Leftie has his own webpage titled “Adventures of Leftie”. He gets emails asking what new adventures he is planning. His fan base extends around the world. We have heard from his fans in New Zealand, England, Ireland, Turkey, and Canada. Recently an email was from a little girl with the same nickname as “Leftie”, she explained that following his adventures has become a monthly routine for her family. One recent adventure took Leftie to Petsmart to see Santa Clause. The next day someone called the local radio station to tell the tale of the Miniature Donkey they saw standing in line at Petsmart to meet Santa. We then were contacted by the radio station asking us to explain the Legend of the Cross. No telling how many people learned a little something about Miniature Donkeys from Leftie’s visit to Petsmart. Leftie’s adventures can be seen at www.wolfheartranch.com/adventuresleftie.htm
Leftie has just started his journey as an Ambassador of The Breed. We are dedicated to his continued success and celebrity.
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