Nutrition is such an important key to good health but it's often not until something goes wrong that we think about it seriously. While we might think of offering donkeys a mineral or salt block, maybe some treats or supplements sometimes, we give them plenty of hay. And, hay is "hay" ... right?
Although I have been sending off samples of hay to be tested for protein levels every other year, I have now delved ever more deeply into the variations on hay in an attempt to find the perfect hay for donkeys.
The first year we had donkeys (2002) I followed the lead of a friend and bought hay from the same supplier that she did. She was feeding horses though and I soon learned that this beautiful horse hay was far too rich for my donkeys. What does "too rich" mean? Donkeys need protein levels in hay to be around 5% and this hay was 12%! Back then, I don't think many people were even thinking about sugars in hay ... more on that dreaded component later.
Back to hay - ever since Siog arrived, 9 months ago, she's had intermittent diarrhea and this has been of great concern to me.
I've carefully dewormed her, had an equine panel done to see if she has a bacterial infection (no, thank goodness!) had her teeth floated, given her probiotics and Ulcerex and Bio-sponge ... nothing has helped!
Next I was reluctantly considering acupuncture and Chinese herbs! Reluctantly because a) that's expensive treatment and b) I prefer to keep things as close to "natural" and uncomplicated as possible!
But as luck would have it, an equine nutritionist suggested that Siog is probably suffering from a fructan overload! Too much sugar in the hay and straw! Oh boy - a possible diagnosis and not that hard to fix!
So this is what has led me on the path to learn as much as I can about hay.