Welcome to my blog - a diary about living with donkeys, notes about care, my training sessions and the absolute pleasure of donkey companionship.

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Feeding angst

Since building the feed troughs, I have experimented with keeping some straw in front of the donkeys all day - cut out a hay feeding so they are only getting a hay bag first thing in the AM and last thing at night, around 9 PM and then lots of barley straw (not weighed) throughout the day.  Very limited grazing.

But, my oh my - they are HUGE!  Am I am freaking out!  They will eat anything and everything, including the fences and I really don't like how they look - very wide, kind of like oil drums on legs.  Borderline obese, even!  I'm even embarrassed to post photos of them!  A bit of white line separation going on too.  Awckgh@#^)!!!!

So this past Friday, I gathered samples from 12 bales of barley straw and sent it off to a lab.  There is SO much controversy about feeding straw - many people on the equine nutrition circuit suggest that:
 a) it might be really high in starch and sugars and b) straw in North America might be quite different to what is called straw in the UK.  I really don't know so I figure I'd better have it analyzed.

I would love to be able to feed free-choice - many people do - but these minis are a challenge, gaining weigh so quickly.  I confess that I've never really understood how to feed free choice - I mean, how much would you put out for them at one time? And doesn't this contradict feeding a % of their body weight?  My gang would do well on a maximum of 4 lbs. each mixed hay/ straw per day (even that might be too much if you were feeding by optimum body weight) - but they would gladly eat waaaaay more than that, if it were offered.  And I'm afraid I have been offering way more to see how they would do on straw if it is always there for them.

In the meantime though, I'm afraid I am cutting back their feed somewhat - not withholding food, that would be wrong, but trickle feeding smaller portions frequently and cutting back on the amount of straw, except overnight, when I am really generous.

Increasing their exercise too - they really need jobs to do but it's winter!  In any case, we do "something" every day, a bit of trotting or jumping or walking.  Right now I'm going to halter up Heather and head out for a walk.


  1. I tried free choice round bale with my Haflinger. . .and she blew up! She wouldn't leave it, even napped right in front of it. I wonder what the analysis will hold?

  2. Oh the joys (or not) of feeding donkeys! It will be interesting to see what the analysis comes back with.... My guys hardly have any hay with their straw at all until the depths of the winter but this might not work for your guys too well.... it is such a challenge to feed such good doers - I can sympathise!

  3. You could try putting the straw in slow feed nets. Feeding free choice means having feed available at all times. That doesn't mean it has to easily available:)!

  4. Ah - interesting idea but I find that the donkeys don't tend to eat straw in a huge hurry so slowing them down for straw is not really a problem. Also, the straw varies so much in terms of coarse, tubular bits and finer pieces , that I find if it's in a hay bag, most of it ends up on the floor. They prefer to nose around in it for the small bits and what they don't eat, I add to their bedding.