This is one of the most important aspects of donkey care. Feet must be trimmed regularly. Many people do this themselves, but if you are unable, you will need to get a farrier to do it every four to six weeks. The farrier will not appreciate it if you haven’t taught your donkey to let his feet be handled, and you should pick up the hooves at least once a week to inspect them and clean out the dirt. The chief problem is seedy toe; an area of crumbling sandy texture that develops between the hoof wall and the sole. If not cleaned out and treated, infection will occur and eventually cause lameness. The treatments for seedy toe are many and varied; but an effective method seems to be removing all the dead tissue, exposing the site to the air and applying formalin. Trainers Hoof Treatment and Copper Sulphate are also popular. All donkeys are susceptible to seedy toe, especially in winter, but prompt and regular attention should keep it under control.
The donkey is a browsing animal, and lush grass is not good for him. Like a small pony, a donkey will quickly become overweight and can develop founder; an inflamation of the hooves which is very painful. Watch for rolls of fat down either side of the mane – a sure sign that your donkey is overdue for a diet! However, a donkey cannot be starved to get weight off, as they can get a fatal condition called hyperlipaemia if starved. A donkeys diet should be low carbohydrate. Roughage is most important in his diet and he should be given good clean hay or straw every day, and of course, he must have access to clean water. They do not need lush grass or high concentrate food. They should never be fed lawn clippings, feed for animals other than equines, or bread, wheat, cakes or excess grain.
Donkeys need worming every 12 weeks or so. You can buy worming pastes which are easy to administer. If you are unsure of which type to use consult your vet. for advice. Running your donkey with or behind other animals such as sheep or cattle helps to lessen the worm burden and this is also the reason why paddocks should be spelled for a few weeks from time to time. Picking up the donkey manure also helps …… and it’s great for the garden!
Lice seem to build up through the winter and make the donkey very itchy and uncomfortable. If he starts scratching himself against trees or gateposts, or biting constantly at his rump, you can be pretty sure that he is lousy. If you find that the louse powder designed for horses doesn’t work, wait for a warm day and give your donkey a good wash down with Asuntol. You will need to do this towards the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
Donkeys love being brushed. A dandy brush or nylon bristle scrubbing brush is ideal. If your donkey wears a cover in winter, take it off as frequently as possible so that he can roll and groom himself naturally. A spronkling of louse powder on the cover helps.
Donkeys have very sensitive skins and their coats are not waterproof. They must have shelter from rain, wind and sun. A small shed open on one side is ideal.
Don’t let your donkey eat any meat, fish or dairy products. If you think he is off-colour, or if he injures himself, don’t delay in seeking help. Donkeys are poor patients – they become depressed and give up very easily. Make sure that you keep the paddocks free from rubbish – bits of plastic and wire etc can prove fatal. Jennies come in season every three weeks and have a gestation period of 11- 13 months.
Start training your donkey as early as possible – small foals can be taught to lead and be tied up, groomed and have their feet picked up and rasped. Pick up their feet as often as possible, and expose them to noise, traffic and people! Do not let anyone ride your donkey till he is at least three years old. By the age of four his bones will have hardened and he will be ready for real work. Donkeys are very intelligent and respond well to patient and understanding treatment.
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