What Do Donkeys Eat A Hearty Exploration of Donkey Diets 7

What Do Donkeys Eat? Digestive System, Diet, and Nutritional Needs

Looking for hays with a greater proportion of stems than leaves will insure a lower nutritional value. The final test of a ration is to try feeding it to some donkeys and see if it is palatable, maintains weight and keeps the animals healthy. Feed a range of feedstuffs – if possible a mixture of dry forage, green forage and some concentrate – and then you can rarely go wrong. Feed the young donkey on the best possible feeds available, good quality roughage and high protein, energy concentrates. A kg of fresh grass can have 80% of its weight as water, whereas a kg of cereal grain only contains 15% water. This means that an animal eating a kg of grass will only get 200 g of the other nutrients it needs, however, if it eats a kg of cereal grain it will get 850 g of the other nutrients it needs.

What do animals eat

Foals rely on their mother’s milk and guidance to thrive, and premature separation can disrupt the strong bond that donkeys establish with their mothers. Gradual weaning and separation is recommended to ease the transition for both the foal and mother. Not only is their digestive system efficient, but donkeys also possess specialized teeth to root and crush plants before they even reach their stomach. This unique adaptation allows for even greater efficiency in their digestion process. If it is possible provide access to several sources of water to increase the choices available to your donkey, enriching their environment and encouraging them to drink sufficient amounts. Donkeys need salt and, if suffering from a salt deficiency, they may eat dirt or lick/chew objects.

Growing and pregnant donkeys that are laying down body tissue and lactating donkeys that are producing protein in milk require more protein in their diet than other donkeys. Concentrate feeds contain carbohydrates mainly in the simple form whereas roughages are high in fibre, the complex carbohydrates. Concentrate feed usually provides the donkey with the more readily accessible form of energy, which can Teeth of herbivores be readily digested and absorbed in the small intestine. A donkey fed mainly on the complex carbohydrates in roughage relies mainly on the micro-organisms in the large intestine to produce the energy giving substrates in a form it can use. They must have some fibre in the diet to stimulate muscle contractions in the digestive tract, and to dilute the more readily fermentable simple carbohydrates.

In a study in Zimbabwe donkeys drinking only every 48 hours, drank the same amount over a three-week period as donkeys allowed to drink as much as they wanted daily. Working donkeys can also be watered during work in the day with no harm. In any short rest periods it is important to make sure the donkey is in the shade and to offer it water. It may not drink straight away so let the donkey spend some time at the trough or with the water bucket (at least 5 minutes) to see if it will drink. When it starts drinking it may pause in drinking and look about, make sure it is allowed to continue until it has finished and turns away of its own accord. Donkeys on a forage only diet may not obtain all of the required vitamins and minerals from the straw, grass and hay in their diets.

In deciding how much food to give a donkey is it better to estimate the dry matter content of the food and, knowing how much dry matter a donkey can eat, then work out how much “fresh feed” to offer. The important thing to remember when feeding fresh green food is that it contains a lot more water than the other feeds. If it is the only source of food the donkey is getting, you need to feed more of it than if the donkey is eating conserved roughage or concentrates. The vitamins are organic substances essential for the correct operation of physiological functions. The fat-soluble vitamins are A, D2, D3, E and K and the water-soluble vitamins are vitamin C and the B-group of vitamins.

Donkeys are social animals and thrive in the company of other donkeys or animals. They form strong bonds with companions, whether with other donkeys or different species. Feeding your donkeys a lot of foreign grass and lush can lead to one disease. Always avoid sheep/goat or cattle feed containing monensin or urea because both are forbidden in organic feed. Donkeys’ are voracious eaters; they love to eat anything that comes their way.

From the stomach the partly digested food goes into the small intestine. The food mixes with enzymes from the pancreas (which act on proteins, carbohydrates and fats), and from the intestinal glands (which act on proteins and carbohydrates) and with bile. Bile is produced in the liver and goes into the small intestine via the bile duct.

Donkeys primarily eat grasses and may also browse shrubs and trees. They have a highly efficient digestive system that allows them to thrive on less nutritious forage. The gestation period for a donkey is about 12 months, which is longer than that of horses.

Young animals need good feeding to reach their potential for growth. Good feeding of a female donkey helps it produce and rear a healthy foal to provide replacements or income from sales. A thin donkey is prone to disease, and harness sores, works slowly and does not reproduce. Freshly cut hay should be stored in a dry barn for at least three months before feeding. Do not suddenly introduce freshly cut hay to the donkey’s diet as it could cause colic or laminitis.

What do animals eat

This is because maize stover is much more fibrous than maize grain, and so less of the food energy is available and more goes out in the feces. Hence energy requirements of equids are usually given as the amount of digestible energy needed. This overcomes the problem that all feeds have different digestibilities.

Some weight loss can be acceptable in a working donkey doing only seasonal work. It has the opportunity to gain weight in the off season, but weight loss is not acceptable in a donkey that is working every day of the year, or one which starts work in a lean condition. The reasons why donkeys are better than ponies at digesting poor quality roughages are not known.

What do animals eat

The donkey usually has a greater voluntary food intake per unit live weight than the ox and is better at digesting fibrous diets than the horse. Donkeys require less food than horses of similar size because they are more efficient at digesting plant food. Typically, if water intake is limited, horses and ponies reduce their feed intake. This is true for donkeys too, but what’s interesting is that unlike horses and ponies the digestibility of the feed that is consumed increases instead of decreasing. Donkeys also conserve water by decreasing their resting metabolic rate during periods of dehydration, which decreases water needs for thermoregulation. This occurs when donkeys are fed with concentrates that are high in cereal.

Haylage can be very variable in terms of nutritional levels; some haylage may be too high in energy to feed to donkeys. We at SPANA have been providing free veterinary treatment to working donkeys across the world for over 90 years. We have cared for thousands of animals, including those with nutritional problems, either due to their owner’s lack of knowledge or lack of access to nutritious foods. Donkeys have incredible digestive systems and are able to survive in some of the harshest environments on earth, including deserts (see where in the world SPANA works with donkeys).

It is important to note that donkeys should be allowed to eat at a stretch and not just once a day. Donkeys don’t always change their diets, but when there is a need for that, the change should be made gradually between 7-14 days. Water is essential to the donkey and should be available at all times. Chaff consists of hay and straw and is highly nutritious for donkeys.

Many people think that donkeys eat grass and are okay with just that. Leaving donkeys to feed on grass unsupervised will become overweight in no time. Some nutrients that cannot be gotten from grass alone should be included in a donkey’s diet. Donkeys have specific dietary requirements that differ from other equines, such as horses.

Donkeys are hardy and resilient animals that have been domesticated for thousands of years. As herbivores, they have unique dietary needs that require a balanced and nutritious diet to maintain good health and optimal performance. Donkeys are known for their ability to thrive in arid environments with limited food resources, but providing them with a diet that meets their nutritional requirements is essential. The minerals are inorganic elements, which have a range of functions in the metabolic processes and activities in the body. The trace minerals (which are needed in minute amounts in the donkey’s body) are iron, manganese, zinc, copper, iodine, selenium and cobalt.

The donkey is smaller and so needs less actual feed than most cattle. However, the way in which the donkey processes the food and what it gets from it are different from an ox. It is important to remember this when feeding donkeys – they are not just small oxen.

Ragwort in hay is very poisonous to donkeys and can kill equines. It can be quite hard to distinguish once it has dried; this is why it is important to know and trust your hay supplier. Donkeys love fresh water and are known to refuse to drink water if it’s not clean or if it’s poured into a dirty bucket.

During winter or other colder months, donkeys must be fed good quality hay or haylage. Feeding donkeys can be dangerous to their health because donkeys differ from horses. Originating from Africa, donkeys originally eat wooden vegetation and shrubs and can adapt to harsh food conditions and scarce vegetation. They are natural browsers and need less starch, sugar, protein, and fiber in their diet. These are guidelines, since the exact amounts and proportions will be affected by how much production is expected from the donkey, its body condition and the food available.

Donkeys have a slower rate of passage of food through the digestive tract, which allows for more thorough fermentation and better extraction of nutrients from their food. They also have a larger cecum and colon relative to their body size, which allows for more extensive fermentation of fibrous material. In this AnimalWised article, we will explore what donkeys eat, their dietary needs and more. Donkeys with sharp or unevenly worn teeth will eat slowly and have a lower than average food intake in a day. Donkeys with high parasite burdens sometimes increase their intake, but will tend to lose weight, despite doing so.

This means that feeding urea can cause urea toxicity in the blood, which can quickly kill the donkey. Therefore all the protein needs of the donkey and the nitrogenous needs of the micro-organisms in its large intestine have to be supplied from protein in the diet. The donkey’s diet should never be supplemented by feed or fertilizer-grade urea or by ruminant concentrate feeds containing urea.

Donkeys often browse on bushes and trees in addition to grazing on grass. Because food availability in their native settings is sparse donkeys in such environments don’t only eat grass. They happily eat browse (woody shrubs, trees, and broadleaf plants) and forbs (flowing plants) as well.

Without careful management, donkeys are prone to obesity, metabolic issues, and laminitis. The snack shouldn’t be substituted for real food as donkeys  only feed on them in small amounts, especially between diets. Examples include carrots, beetroots, apples, oranges, pears, strawberries, grapefruits, lettuce, and cucumber. They do not contain excess calories and are essential to the growth of a donkey.

Avoid feeding potatoes, anything from the brassica family, onions, leeks, garlic, stoned fruit and anything which is old, fermented or mouldy as these are toxic to donkeys. Weather conditions tend to influence the cutting season – late May to July. If the hay is cut later in the year a lot of the goodness will have gone out of the grass and some of the grass will have gone to seed. This type of hay provides a much lower energy source than early cut hay and for that reason it is fine for feeding to donkeys. If the weather in May is good the farmers might make hay in the first week of June and get a second cut at the end of July. This ‘second cut’ hay is usually lower in energy value and again is fine for most donkeys.

The reader wanting these details is referred to the list of further reading at the end of this chapter. There is much less information on donkeys than there is on horses. Their diet consists of grass, hay, straw, and other plant-based foods. They need to eat around 2% of their body weight every day in order to stay healthy. Donkeys also like to chew on bones and rocks to help grind down their food. The donkey, if dehydrated, will reduce its food intake and eventually stop eating, therefore ideally it needs as much water as it can drink in the day.

Miriam Ware

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