Irish Donkey Welfare Organisation
FEEDING A DONKEY
Many owners or potential owners believe that the donkey will live quite happily on grass only and all that's required is to leave him to it!
That is possible but not ideal. Remember his natural habitat - desert/little vegetation. Over the years he has had to adapt himself to his new environment but it is important to remember that despite the previous lack of food, he managed to thrive.
Plain and simple is the order of the day - a donkey which is not working needs a diet only to maintain his ideal weight. He will eat as much and for as long as he is allowed. He is a grazer by nature so need to feed so he thinks he's full but with as little energy giving foods as possible.
To make his brain believe that he is full, he needs plenty of fibre. Straw ideally and barley is best followed by oat and then wheat straw. Buy the best quality you can, it should be clean and not full of dust. Straw fed ad lib will provide the bulk of his diet but may need something to boost his limited energy levels. In summer, he can graze on grass but like any "diet" the amount will need to be controlled as it is a source of sugar. This is done by a method called "strip grazing" (see under Land Management) and he needs nothing else other than clean, fresh water.
In wintertime when the grass isn't growing and provides little energy value, small amounts of good hay can be given daily in addition to the straw. Its a good idea to provide a salt lick (ideally the block variety with added minerals) rather than the buckets which are high in sugary molasses.
Other than for pregnant, young or sick donkeys they do not need hard feed. If you feel it necessary to feed this, try to stay away from crunches/mixes as again they are high in sugar and cereal. Results from post mortems have shown an increase in stomach ulcers in donkeys that have been fed cereal based feed.
Treats such as cake, bread, biscuits and sweets are to be avoided but he will appreciate the odd apple, carrot or banana.
Donkeys should always be fed according to condition (weight) and this can change very quickly. We don't want to see either emaciated or obese donkeys, both of which provide health issues. Its a good idea to keep a check on your donkeys weight by measuring his girth monthly using a tape measure or piece of string, any changes can then be addressed quickly and easily.
IDWO run specific courses on Feeding and Weight Management - if you are interested in attending one, do contact us.