Irish Donkey Welfare Organisation
A Fine Line of Grazing
It's a fine line owners tread in providing too much or not enough grass grazing for their donkeys. How to stop them becoming overweight and the worry that laminitis may occur, even if it has not been an issue thus far.
Spring is a particular time for concern when the new, sweet grass is appearing wanting to turn them out but needing to restrict this time for the reasons stated above. Keeping them in the yard for longer periods results in bored donkeys just standing around with that sorrowful look in their eyes and hoping it will make you feel suitably guilty and give in to them!
The use of the "strip grazing" method is advocated to avoid this issue but sometimes its a good idea to try and think "outside the box". Traditionally our fields or paddocks are divided into neat areas allowing the animal to roam freely within it. Yes it does restrict the amount of grass eaten but doesn't do anything to encourage exercise apart from the occasional trip to the water trough.
So what alternatives are there? One that came to notice was running an electric fence around approximately 10ft inside the perimeter, making sure that the donkeys have free access to their shelter at all times. This creates a track encouraging the animals to keep moving, increasing their walking distance, improving fitness and foot condition. Trips to the water trough become a good walking distance, thus providing additional exercise. If you consider the grass within the track area too rich then a good quantity of it can be removed beforehand.
Keeping donkeys moving will also help to alleviate boredom and an odd pile of straw, salt licks (not the sugary bucket kind) and logs for chewing each placed randomly will keep their interest. If you have sufficient "track" consider changing an odd area - some could be covered in paving slabs (which can be moved around from time to time), gravel, pea shingle or similar to help maintain healthy feet. This leaves the central area of the track as a separate paddock to be used as a limited turnout as and when required.
If you are lucky enough to have some tree/scrubby areas within your land, try to include at least part of this within your track, again it provides interest plus a source of food bearing in mind that donkeys are browsers and grazers, so don't include any favourite plants or bushes.
A similar idea would be to have 2 circular areas of electric fence to create a figure of 8 grazing area and providing 2 x smaller areas for later use - these systems are known as track grazing.
Worth a try maybe?