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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Low maintenance donkeys have some high maintenance needs

I've had donkeys for just over a year now. As usual with anything I throw myself right in , all or nothing! From a lone guardian donkey ( which is never a good idea to have a lone donkey) to a small herd of potential dairy donkeys complete with a stud jack and some girls with riding potential! 
I've taken on a few I probably shouldn't have. It's important to know your limitations! Bringing home an intact , mishandled Jack and an easily spooked large jennet was not the best thing to do!
I survived and learned from it but I sure don't recommend anyone that's new to donkeys try it! 
I have only been fortunate a couple of times to be able to buy a well trained donkey.
One that never runs from the halter.. Leads,, loads and stands nicely tied for the farrier ... I even had one that was trained to ride one time.
Once you've had a well trained donkey 
It's a pain to have one that is not trained!!
This is one of the things about owning donkeys people usually don't consider. Yes they are low maintenance for feed.. The standard donkeys don't need fancy grains and alfalfa hay and they don't need rich pasture.
They do, however eat a lot of that low quality hay they need! So if you live in a area that difficult to get hay please be aware of that. Low maintenance food does not mean cheap to feed!
Donkeys usually don't suffer from parasite problems as much as most livestock ( atleast mine haven't) especially compared to goats and sheep.
But they need more training and to be worked if you want a well behaved donkey for the farrier or if you need to load it for the vet Or lead it to a milking area! Especially if you plan to milk one, the jennet needs training!
They also need special hoof care and not every farrier knows how to trim a donkey properly. Equally important is not every farrier understands how to approach and handle a donkey, so they do more damage than good the next time they need hoof work. Donkeys are smart and remember when they've been mishandled! I've got 2 Jennys that have obviously been very mishandled. It's sad and it's a lot of work to earn their trust.

These are just a couple of things that make low maintenance , easy keeping donkeys a higher maintenance livestock at times. Their need for extensive training and special hoof care.  
Below here is Rani's foal .. I started halter training him at 2 weeks old! He lets me pick his feet up , he leads. We will be working on loading soon!
Who ever buys this guy will have a wonderful well trained gelding that's been raised around poultry and sheep. I want to help ensure the foals born on my farm get good homes.. Sending them out well trained is a good way to do this. 
As I've said most donkeys available are not trained and if given the chance I'd pay more every time and get one trained if I could. A $200 standard donkey not broke for anything or a $600 or $800 standard donkey perfectly trained... Or even the $1000 donkey trained for riding ..really riding ,, not just someone sitting on its back and being lead around . That's not riding that's more like packing a human!
Yes... It's a case of you get what you pay for! 
Unfortunately I don't have the choice of just buying the kind of donkeys I like already trained for the most part around here. So all the work ahead is mine to take on...

Below is the round pen for training and 3 of my donkeys standing tied. None of these donkeys were trained for anything when I bought them. My black jack on the left has been the easiest to train .. He halters, is leaning well, let's me pick up his feet, stands tied patiently and he now loads! 
I've only had him 2 months! He's very young and so is the jennet in the middle .. She has also taken to training well.
The Jennet on the right is much older and has been long neglected. She is harder to train. But she is leading very well, standing and actually starting to load some! She's a challenge though because she does not trust easy! In order to train, the donkey must first trust you.

Another thing to consider is the equipment needed for handling and training. I don't even have any fancy stuff here.. Just basics.. Halters, leads, brushes and other grooming stuff ,some farrier tools ( not really good ones but I'll be buying better ones soon because these aren't strong enough to trim the big girls hooves and to big for my hands) 
I bought a lot of this used... Still well over $200 of stuff.. And now I badly need a tack area for all this stuff!
Unforeseen cost that go with an animal can add up! Once I buy better farrier tools and possibly get into saddles , packing and riding gear that's really going to add up and require more storage space. 
I still consider donkeys low maintenance , but to make living with them more enjoyable and more healthy for them they do have some high maintenance needs that have to be considered.  
A particular large expense is a livestock trailor. I can't easily put donkeys in the back of the van like I can a sheep so we had to invest in a livestock trailer or rent one. 
Since donkeys are here to stay we bought a used one and it's made life so much easier! 

I hope this helps people looking to get into donkeys. To many times people underestimate the needs of these animals. It's better to be prepared than to get a big 500 pound or more donkey home that you realize your not up to dealing with. 
Donkeys are the most wonderful creatures and well worth the effort as they can fill many roles on a farm! 
They are a joy to work with when they trust you! And very easy to mantain once you know how to manage them. 

I'm still learning all the time! 
They are a huge part of our farm. Love my donkeys ❤️❤️

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