Well, the long planned trip is over. My partner and I actually left home for 8 whole days - first time in about 10 years! We had a fabulous farm-sitter - our dear friend Jenny, who once worked as a large animal vet and "horse person" and she did a great job.
But, there's always something - right? I left pages of notes and although I really tried to simplify donkey care, Deenah needed her extra food in the form of bowls of soaked Timothy- Alfalfa hay cubes with a plethora of supplements.
Jenny was on top of it ALL - but this is what happened. When we got home, both minis had decided two things:
1. they are not going to eat out of slow feeder hay bags ever again, thank-you-very-much, because Deenah is now getting piles of loose hay and they should too
2. in fact, they really no longer care for the hay ... not the current fare of sweet coarse mixed 2011 hay, not the local mixed grass, low NSC hay, well, maybe just a bit of the local 2010 HIGH sugar hay, but "what else ya got?"
It was disturbing! My normally "starving" minis are now wandering around turning up their noses at just about everything. Whaaaat?
So, as a good friend once instructed "observe, observe, observe!" to find out what the heck is going on.
Here's what I did:
First I buckled on my treat pouch and invited them to do a familiar clicker training routine: walk on either side of me, stop, back, forward, trot, etc, all the while clicking and treating. Would they do it? Yes! Would they eat the timothy pellets I use as treats? Yes!
I picked a few small branches of oregon grape and huckleberry - their favorites! Would they eat them? Well yesss, but not much enthusiasm. Hmmm ... worrisome!
Then I took 1 mini at a time out on the road. Would she step out nicely? With energy and interest? Yes!
Was she interested in grazing? Yes but in Dorrie's case, just a bit and without a lot of enthusiasm ... hmmm ... worrisome!
Okay, so I notice that they both look like oil drums on legs - how could they have gained so much weight in just 8 days, anyway? Check the hay and the straw! Aha - mystery solved! Before I left, they had been munching on a barley straw that was fairly long-stemmed and coarse. They didn't like it much and most of it became bedding. But I had brought down a new bale for Jenny and it turned out to be finely chopped and they LOVED it!
As my instructions were to keep their straw bags topped up, Jenny did just that and they ate an entire BALE of barley straw PLUS their hay (which was generous) plus any new blades of spring grass (which is hardly any, but you know donkeys!) YIKES! They were too stuffed to eat much at all by the time I arrived home!
I did lose 1 night of sleep to worrying, but now I think they will be fine. I must increase their physical activity though and have pulled back (carefully) on the amount of feed they are getting. Today, two days later, I am happy to report that they are seeming "normal" again, although still rejecting the hay bags in favour of loose hay.