After nearly 11 years of owning donkeys, you'd think I'd have a way of doing things, wouldn't you? But I'm always reading and things have changed over the years in terms of what's considered important regarding animal husbandry.
Take worming for example. Not long ago, people thought it was important to give your donkey a dewormer every six weeks, and a different type of drug each time. Deworm everyone in the herd at the same time.
That's all been rethought - now we are advised to do our own fecal floats at home and not to rotate dewormers too often. We've also learned that some donkeys may carry a burden of intestinal parasites, but other donkeys in the same herd may have developed more of an immunity.
Okay, so back to feed. At one time, feeding twice a day was considered okay. Now we realize that equine can develop ulcers and others problems if they are not eating small amounts of forage frequently.
Donkeys need coarse, low protein, low sugar forage but try to tell them that and they (the donkeys) will protest!
"Oh NO ... we need really good, rich feed at all times!" Plug your ears, sing "la la la la ...." and don't listen! That's HARD to do!
So now I've got myself into this confusing conundrum. I work from home, I'm here to listen to all of my donkeys and believe me, the complaints department here works overtime! However I feed hay and straw four times a day and often small handfuls in between, as well as opening and closing various gates for some grazing time. It's a full time job and I can NEVER leave home! That's nuts and I'm needing to find more flexibility.
Enter the slow feeder hay bag! Ah ha - this is a great invention! However ... not wanting to park my donkeys in front of a big pile of feed that they will eat all at one time, I still dole it out in 1 lb. offerings. Still too much management.
I'm looking for a different approach. How to offer four donkeys (remember there is competition) small amounts of feed throughout the day and night that they can find (equally,) get enough exercise and be satisfied without long stretches without any feed.
I now have a collection of sixteen mini hay bags! Truly! I LOVE them! So I'm thinking of dividing their daily ration of hay and straw into eight bags in the morning and then putting out another eight bags in the evening ... that means each donkey would have to "find" two bags to get her rations. I think this will only work in summer though if it works at all.
Siog would win the hay bag Olympics if there was such a thing. She manages to extract great gobs of hay in mouthfuls, whereas Dorrie eats slowly and thoughtfully. Rose is easily dislodged from her bag if someone else wants it and Heather is a force to be reckoned with if she sets her mind on someone else's hay bag.
The way I'm doing it now has sure made a huge difference to every one's weight though, I have to say. Rose and Heather have lost their cresty fat pads along their necks, I can actually see hip bones on Heather and everyone is looking great!
But a less labour-intensive method to feeding would be super! Then perhaps I could leave home once in awhile.