Everywhere you look people have different ideas on what/if they feed their donkeys. We are NOT vets, but we do have many years experience and work with OUR VET to make sure our donkeys get the nutrition they need! Below is our experience with feeding our miniature donkeys- please work with your vet for your specific needs!
Why We Feed Our Donkeys
One of the most common things we see in the donkey world is that it is not recommended to feed donkeys. While donkeys can be prone to obesity we do believe in 2 meals a day for our critters. The main reason is so that we can catch hyperlipaemia early. Hyperlipaemia is a metabolic disorder common in donkeys that happens when their triglyceride levels are too high and it causes a negative energy balance and organ failure. We often hear horror stories about donkeys going into that state and dying. One of the first signs is when a donkey goes off their food and has a duller personality. It is very often missed as many do not feed their donkeys and do not keep a close enough eye on their forage consumption. It is also hard to notice right away as donkeys can be stoic animals. We know as soon as a donkey does not nibble at their grain that something is wrong and we can start diagnosing the problem immediately.
Our first experience with hyperlipaemia happened with our little guy Bandit. One evening we were out feeding and noticed he did not come eat and was separating himself from the herd. In the morning he ate fine and was a happy donkey. We called our vet immediately. At first colic was suspected, but we drew blood to see what could be going on. When the test came back it was discovered his triglycerides were incredibly high. It was at that time we made the decision to take him to the Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, VA. Once there they did some more tests and determined he was going through severe hyperlipaemia as his triglycerides were at 3380 mg/dL. The normal level is around 200 mg/dL. It was touch and go for a bit and he ended up being in the hospital for 5 days. He came home and had to be in a stall for another week before he could go outside. Had we not noticed he wasn't eating he may never have come home as we would have probably noticed too late.
Bandit in Recovery at Home with His Mom
What We Feed
Now nobody wants an obese donkey, and you can still feed your donkey safely to make sure that does not happen. We feed our donkeys Nutrena Empower TopLine Balancer which is great for overweight or metabolic equines. It provides them with trace minerals, amino acids, and vitamins needed for a healthy critter. They also get a small amount of Nutrena Safechoice Original. We also give our donks 2nd cutting orchard grass hay during the fall and winter and they do get to graze on grass in the spring and summer. We monitor their weight and make sure they are not overeating. We also have several with special dietary needs that get extras such as senior feed and Succeed. Once again work with your vet for the best feeding regimen. We never make blanket statements about how all horses should not eat grain- we adjust to their needs! We should do that for donkeys too!