Extracts from a number of presentations describing how donkeys may be managed to best effect, taking care of their health and happiness and also ensuring they are using the right equipment, much of which can be home-made.
THE MOST VALUABLE ANIMALS !
WORK IS WORTH
GOOD MONEY !
The work of donkeys:
1.8-2.8 megajoules per day
Power output 170-200 Watts
~ 250 newtons for 4 hours
Forward movement ~ 0.7 metres/second
In its lifetime, a healthy, happy donkey can provide
50 000 (yes, fifty thousand) hours of work
(No wonder they are called ‘God’s Own’)
THE MONEY YOU CAN SAVE OR EARN
COMPARE THE FOLLOWING (2002) COSTS:
PLOUGHING 100 ha for one season
TRANSPORTING 500 kg 30 km
SO: MAKE SURE DONKEYS ARE HEALTHY AND HAPPY
Unless they are, they cannot or will not give the
work that can earn and save money for YOU.
SUSTAINABILITY PLUS !SUSTAINABILITY PLUS !
BACKLOADING A DONKEY
Sacks folded over and
joined along the fold
spread the weight along
The load must
not be borne
on a single
In some areas, basket-type frames (sometimes
called ‘bundles’) are tied together for transporting
dried fish and similar sorts of load.
These, being light and tough, are very suitable
for donkey transport. Especially, they are ideal
for placing the weight on the ribs and not the
spine of the animal.
Or a ‘soggie’ can be woven from palm or grass
Jerrycans can be
tied close together,
so the rope does not
touch the back.
The weight should
rest on the donkey’s
ribs, not its spine.
It is easier to lift single jerrycans onto a frame rather
than two tied together.
Padding under the frame and wide straps back and front
prevent wounding and make the load steady on slopes.
SIMPLE BUT EFFECTIVE BACKFRAME
Just a bit of welding,
all can be done in the
And such frames can handle all sorts of other
things, too, ensuring that weight is not directly on
the donkey’s spine.
USING ONE DONKEY BEHIND ANOTHER
Donkeys are accustomed to walking in lines along paths,
so are not difficult to control when they share a load.
Some loads can be too long for one donkey
Other types of load
need to be kept level
TYING A SINGLE LOAD ONTO A DONKEY
Balance is the most
important thing – otherwise
a LOT of trouble !
EQUIPMENT FOR CONTROLLING A DONKEY
A thick rope, which will not cut, about 2m long, is very
simple to knot into the right loops.
To work with a donkey, it is necessary to control its head.
A short loop goes
with the short
part under the
The long loop goes
behind the ears,
where it can be
tightened to fit.
When a donkey is not
working, to prevent it
wandering, it can be
(Not for longer than 3 hours
without moving, and
ALWAYS WITH ENOUGH
TO EAT !)
Strips of sacking, twisted and latched above its
hoofs, prevent a donkey from taking long steps,
but do not harm the feet it needs for work.
ATTACHING (HITCHING) DONKEYS
Donkeys pull strongly from the tops of their legs, so a strap
around the chest, joined to two traces (chains or ropes or
riems) and a swingle (short pole) behind is the elementary
equipment for pulling – poles, sleds, ploughs, etc.
Apart from enabling a donkey to pull from its chest,
harnesses must fit properly and be made of material which
does not cause wounds.
Does it fit ?
cheaper to braid
SOLVING THE PROBLEMS OF PULLING CARTS
1. Carts with only two wheels can be loaded badly
so that the animals have difficulty with the weight.
2. Carts with only one
shaft (disselboom) require
two animals – but how do
they share the load and
pulling without too much
3. Also, any
some way of
when it goes
THE MAIN PROBLEMS:
When wheels are used, there are a lot more forces
To the middle of the front of the cart, and also to
the end of the disselboom, swingles and eveners can
be attached, joined front and back by traces, so
donkeys can be easily hitched.
With a harness over its chest, and another one over
its backside, from back and front the donkey is
hooked to the traces.
The weight of the cart is taken by the donkey on
its back (not its neck, which is weak), and there
is a strap around its buttocks so it can resist the
cart rolling forward.
A small cart with two shafts can be pulled by one
donkey, so attaching is much easier
(to the middle on each side )
For pulling heavier loads, donkeys can be added in the
front of the shaft/s, but they do not need to take any
load on their backs, and do not provide any braking
METAL BITS, EVEN BRIDLES, NOT NECESSARY
SAFETY ON PUBLIC ROADS
Various methods have been tried –
on ears or
And also on the carts
front still needs
NOTE: Limpopo Province
requires ADC (animal-drawn
cart) licence plates !
SHELTER FOR DONKEYS
Donkeys should be kept confined at night when they
are not supervised – otherwise they wander and may
do damage to crops, or otherwise be damaged
Donkeys lie down to sleep
and do not like to have to
sleep in their own dung,
so there should be at
least 2 m2
DONKEYS SHOULD NEVER
BE LEFT LOCKED UP
WITHOUT BEING ABLE TO
EAT DURING THE DAY.
Males, even castrated males, which often fight each
other when not working, should be separated from
females and young.
‘windows’ in the wall allow donkeys to put
their heads out for snack after they are
locked up. This makes them willing to
stay in for the rest of the night..
There should also be a roof to
protect especially young
donkeys from rain. They easily
suffer and may die from
influenza in cold, wet weather
Almost all male donkeys should be castrated to avoid
trouble. They can be very sexually aggressive, and work
better if they are castrated.
Strong ropes are
needed, but they should
A burdizzo does not
always work, so all
castration should be
done by experts.
COMMON TREATMENTS FOR DONKEYS
Worm dosing lengthens a
donkey’s life and keeps it
strong. It should be done
twice a year, poured with a
bottle or syringe between a
donkey’s front teeth and its
back teeth, over its tongue.
Irritated eyes must be
thoroughly washed out every
day with clean water mixed
with a little salt or cooking
soda, and squirted into the
eye, avoiding contact with the
As feet are so important, hoofs need to be cleaned,
checked for injury, and if necessary carefully cut to
Ticks can be
If injecting is necessary,
it should be carefully
done, preferably by a
For foot infections, a copper
sulphate and vinegar mixture can
be poured into a boot made from
inner tube to soak for 15 minutes
x2 per day
SIMPLE CAN BE EFFECTIVE:
Salt, Stockholm Tar or
vaseline for wounds; clean first
with methylated spirits …
FIRST AID KIT FOR DONKEYS
VASELINE for ticks and minor wounds
METHYLATED SPIRITS for cleaning wounds and
BICARBONATE OF SODA mixed with very clean water
for squirting sore eyes and wounds
STOCKHOLM TAR for covering cleaned wounds and
BLUE STONE Copper Sulphate & VINEGAR to be mixed
with water for soaking sore & infected hoofs
COTTON WOOL – preferably discs – for cleaning wounds
SYRINGE to be used without needle for squirting eyes
LARGE NAIL for applying Stockholm Tar and for cleaning
SMALL HACKSAW for shaping hoofs
CUT 2-LITRE PLASTIC BOTTLE for soaking hoofs &
otherwise mixing liquids
Most donkeys give very
little trouble when being
treated, especially if
they are accustomed to
it – but a little training
may help. Troublesome
donkeys can be
immobilized by holding
and twisting an ear.
Otherwise, build a crushpen
that can be available when
needed, meanwhile getting the
donkeys used to it by leading
them through it and perhaps
rewarding them before they
ever need treatment.
(always reward a donkey for being good !)
A CRUSHPEN MAKES LIFE EASY
If a donkey can’t stand up, it will need support
until it is better.
A broken leg can be
supported with a
until the bone knits
together. But the
bones must be
DONKEYS SHOULD NOT EAT PLASTIC !
and sand found
DONKEYS SHOULD NOT WORK BEFORE 3 YRS
Their bones are not
complete and could get
(Donkeys are 3 years
teeth in use)
Front donkey only 2 years old
When buying donkeys, remember NOT to
young (up to
(donkeys can die
of heatbreak and
loneliness, or at
least become bad
Is a tricky business,
as many die in
trucks or after; it
is better to walk
FEEDING A DONKEY
They will also eat
leaves of trees
Donkeys eat about 1/6th
of the amount
that oxen do, and eat much rougher
veld. (So much better for the veld !)
As long as they graze freely for 6 hours
in a day, that is all they need, plus no
more than 10 litres/day of water each.
If they are working, and have no time to
eat, 6 kg should be provided, including 1
kg grain for each donkey.
MAKING A HAYNET:
for donkeys to pull
out grass about 10
x 10 cm
HOW MUCH DONKEYS WORK !
the rain !
they do not
seem to tire.
if you talk
to them !
Donkeys convert food into energy better than any
other animal. All the same, They should not work for
more than 3 hours continuous, and 6 hours in a day.
MANY OTHER THINGS DONKEYS DO
They protect sheep:
chase jackals & dogs
Help train calves
Provide medical milk for
humans: premature babies,
Add to tourist enjoyment
THEY ARE EVEN HELPING WITH LITERACY AND EDUCATION -
in Colombia and
DISABLED AND DISASTERS -
WHY PEOPLE PREFER DONKEYS OVER CATTLE
Five (5) donkeys will eat the same as
one (1) ox – and will eat even less
protein. Much lighter on the veld !
Donkeys drink very little water –
six (6) donkeys will drink about the
same as one (1) ox.
Where two oxen pull
a plough, often two
donkeys can do the
same work, and one
(1) can sometimes
be enough, certainly for a cart.
YET:three donkeys can easily do
the work of two oxen
THEY LIVE ALMOST AS LONG AS HUMANS !
AND AS FOR CARRYING LOADS … what animal
would be so good ?Easy to train, willing and intelligent !
Particularly good on steep, rocky slopes and any place
where roads are absent
Can be left to
work alone, too !
SOME DONKEY STORIES …
Maria was holding the
baby Jesus in front of
her on the donkey
during the flight into
Egypt. The baby was
still very young, and he
wet the back of the
donkey where he was
sitting. Because of this,
the donkey carries the
cross on its back.
The story is told that the little donkey
that Jesus rode on Palm Sunday, came
to the hill of Calvary. Seeing the tragic
happening there, he wished with all his
heart he had been able to carry the
cross for Jesus – as he was the proper
one to carry heavy burdens.
The donkey turned his back on the sight,
but he could not leave because he
wished to stay until all was over because
of his love for Jesus. In reward for the
loyal and humble love of the little
donkey the Lord caused the shadow of
the cross to fall across his back and
left it there for the donkey to carry
forevermore - as a sign that the love
of God, no matter how humble,
carries a reward for all to see.
One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried
piteously for hours, as the farmer tried to figure out what to do.
Finally he decided the animal was old and the well needed to be
covered anyway, it just wasn't worth it to try to pull the donkey out.
He invited all his neighbours to come over and help him fill the well.
They each grabbed a shovel and began to throw dirt into the well.
At first, the donkey realised what was happening and cried horribly.
Then, to everyone's amazement, he
quieted down. A few shovel loads later,
the farmer finally looked down the well
and was astonished at what he saw.
With every shovel of dirt that hit his
back, the donkey was doing something
amazing. He would shake it off and take
a step up. As the farmer's neighbours
continued to shovel dirt on top of the
animal, he would shake it off and take a
step up. Pretty soon, everyone was
amazed as the donkey stepped up over
the edge of the well and trotted off!
In parts of Africa the story
is told of three animals
boarding a bus: an ox, a goat
and a donkey.
Only the ox had the correct
fare; the goat sneakily
avoided paying its fare at all,
and the donkey failed to get
change from the conductor.
Now, when a bus comes
speeding down the road,
cattle pay no attention to it,
goats run to hide, but
donkeys are determined to
stop it so as to claim the
change that was never given.
Overheard in 1993 at a women’s
leadership workshop in rural Zimbabwe:
Question: WHAT SHOULD A LEADER BE LIKE ?
Answer: A LEADER SHOULD BE LIKE A DONKEY.
Question: WHY ?
Answer: BECAUSE A DONKEY WORKS HARD
AND ALWAYS KNOWS WHERE TO GO !
MBAHELA, LIMPOPO PROVINCE, March 2001
GOD’S LITTLE DONKEY ON THE MOON
Every month, when the moon is full, you can see a baby
donkey on the moon – recovering from illness or injury.
At the end of the month, when the moon is out of sight,
God brings that little donkey down to earth, and takes
it to a mother whose own baby has died that night.
God takes the dead baby donkey back to the moon,
where it can slowly come alive again.
Meanwhile the mother donkey has
a healthy, happy baby to look
after, a baby that needs a mother.
So slowly she can recover, too,
from the awful shock of her own
WAS YOUR DONKEY ONE OF GOD’S LITTLE DONKEYS ?
• All the things your donkeys can do •
• Problems to be solved with donkeys •
• How to make equipment for donkeys •
• How to look after your donkeys •
• What your donkeys are worth •
• How to earn money with your donkeys •
FACILITATION AND CONSULTANCY SERVICES
Peta A. Jones, MSc PhD
PO Box 1695 MUSINA 0900 South Africa
Cell +27 (0)83 686 7539 e-mail email@example.com