IF you know me, you know I have a soft spot for these little unicorns, but I also do my best to not kill them with kindness… aka: too much food!
Donkeys are desert descendants and are designed to search and forage on low quality feed found in arid climates. Their metabolisms are structured so that they can survive on much less calories than horses and this is is why they are so popular as working animals in less-developed countries.
Even grass hay can provide too many calories for a donk and unrestricted access hay and pasture are recipes for obesity in burros. A good recipe for forage is about 80% barley hay (wheat hay will do in a pinch, but the stems are harder to chew), and about 20% grass hay. Grass hay should be below 12% (if you have horses remember that you should test your hay anyway!) and slow fed or rationed. Alfalfa will always be too rich for a donkey and should be avoided at all costs.
Some donkeys may require additional mineral supplementation without the need for calories, this can be fed as a free-choice mineral lick or loose mixture, as long as there is no added sugar!
Check back with us in spring for another blog about how to manage donkeys on pasture!
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