Feeding and Care of Mules and Donkeys


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My Horse University/eXtension HorseQuest free monthly webcast on caring for mules and donkeys. Presented by Dr. Amy McLean, University of Wyoming.

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Feeding and Care of Mules and Donkeys

  1. 1. Introduction to Feeding and Care of Long ears• Very little of what we know about the care of mules and donkeys comes from research• The information that will be shared today comes from both practical experience dealing with mules and donkeys for over twenty years and some scientific studies• We will discuss management concerns associated with the well being of both donkeys and mules• Keeping in mind there is even less information available or mules
  2. 2. Introduction – To donkeys & mules• Approximately 55 million horses in the world• Approximately 54 million donkeys, mules & hinnies• > 90% are working animals in developing regions of the world FAO Statistics, 2002
  3. 3. Introduction to donkeys & mules
  4. 4. Feeding Long Ears• #1 Rule when feeding mules and donkeys is to not OVER feed them! – This is generally not a problem in developing countries where they are still used as beast of burdens• In general young, growing mules and some donkeys tend to be harder to keep weight on• Once both have matured keeping weight OFF tends to be the issue if they are not being properly feed, exercised, or managed
  5. 5. Feeding Long Ears• In 2007 Nutritional Requirements for Donkeys were included in the National Research Council for Nutrient Requirements of Horses 6th edition• However, no to little nutritional information is available for feeding mules• Similar to feeding a horse, one should consider the following factors: – Age (young, mature, old) – Level of Work (amount of exercise in hours and how often during the week) – Environment (severe weather such as below 0 temperatures, wind, rain and snow, access to shelters can all create an increase in energy demands) – Weight of the animal (feed on weight not volume)
  6. 6. Feeding Long Ears Donkeys have been compared to small ruminants in their ability to digest poor quality feeds, meaning feeds/forages that are high in fiber Tend to think donkeys and mules can survive on less feed when compared to a horse Diets in developing countries are very high in fiber and low in protein and energy Donkeys often browse on a variety of plants including the bark of trees or wooden fences Not uncommon for donkeys to consume plants high in tannins
  7. 7. Feeding Long Ears Research has shown donkeys to have a slower gastrointestinal tract time, meaning what they eat stays in their digestive track longer compared to a horse, therefore they can maximize digestion and possibly nutrient absorption Donkeys continue to eat during times of dehydration Donkey and mules ability to dissipate heat aid to their possible need for less water when compared to a horse in drought type climates
  8. 8. Tips for Feeding Long Ears Avoid over feeding both donkeys and mules THEY ARE NOT HORSES with BIG EARS! Monitor their grass intake Consider limiting grazing especially for miniature and standard donkeys to the morning Mules can generally graze all day and many will need additional forage and possibly supplementation with grain Feed based on weight and not volume High Fiber and Fat diets work well for both Mules and Donkeys Don’t over feed Carbohydrates and Protein, Donkeys have a unique ability to recycle high levels of urea Don’t attempt to rapidly decrease weight in both can lead to hyperlipemia Watch for laminitis in hind limbs prior to front
  9. 9. Body Condition Scoring Donkeys can be scored using the Donkey Sanctuary System from 1-5, 1 being thin and 5 being obese Mules a little bit harder due to their various genetic backgrounds and conformation.  Use the Henneke Scale of 1-9 with caution and compare to the Donkey Scale
  10. 10. Body Condition Scoring Donkeys #1= Thin #2= Moderate #3= ldeal 1#4= Fat #5= Obese Horse for Reference
  11. 11. Body Condition Scoring MulesHorse For Reference
  12. 12. Specie Differences Donkey Mule  Donkeys lack the presences of reticulocytes  Higher Mean value for corpuscular volume (MCV) ~48.4)  Fewer but larger erythrocytes  Lower White Blood Cell count (5.86)  Higher mean value for corpuscular volume (MCV)  Lower Lymphocytes (2.9)  Serum lactate dehydrogenase higher for miniature donkeys  Higher plasma triglyceride levels  Lower monocyte (0.29)  Liver enzymes higher (creatine kinase and  Red blood cell tend to be lower than horses glutamyltransferase) (6.74)  Normal temperature for a donkey 98.6°F (lower than a horse)  Mean Platelet volume tends to be lower (8)  Heart Rate ~ 48 bpm  Normal temperature for a mule similar to that of a horse 99.18  Respiration ~ 21 breathes/min  (McLean et al., 2011 unpublished)*Recommend getting a copy of the AAEP Proceedings from 2002/vol 48: In DepthMule/Donkey Medicine and Surgery
  13. 13. Anatomical Differences: Donkey vs. Mule vs. Horse
  14. 14. Anatomical Differences: Donkey Laryngeal Anatomy-difference in the vocal folds yielding the bray not a nicker/whinny No ergots on the hind legs and hooves are small and boxy Teats are found on the sheath of male donkeys Thicker Cutaneous coli muscle Donkeys have less prominent withers but a more prominent sternum Different shape and tilt to the pelvis Longer gestation period than horses (12 months) Longer life spans compared to horses Donkey’s teeth eruption does not match that of a horse Differences in the opening of the guttural pouches Angle of airway different from the horse Should use a smaller diameter tube when passing a nasal tube in a donkey
  15. 15. Anatomical Differences: Mule Combined traits of the sire and dam Longer ears, vocalization similar to a donkey Some may have more prominent withers Head is some times larger than a horse but not as large at the donkey Typically find ergots on the hind limbs Finding tack that fits appropriately can be difficult Tend to prefer being turned out vs. stalled Very social animals and prefer companionship but can become very buddy soured Owners will find many quirks must be dealt with versus corrected (e.g. ear shyness, hard to catch, etc) Food/ reward system generally works well in training systems Like the donkey its not uncommon for fat pones to develop on a moderate body conditioned animal in the hind ribs, crest of the neck or tail head
  16. 16. Pharmacokinetic Tips Long Ears Anesthetizing donkeys and mules proves to be different than horses Quicker to metabolize pharmaceutical products  For example: when using NASIDS (example Bute or Banamine) you will probably have to administer more frequent doses to your mule and donkey for a favorable response So, a veterinarian may need to use a larger dose on a donkey compared to a horse of similar body weight  Especially true for miniature donkeys, may need more drugs in a shorter interval of time  Miniatures seem to respond best to xylazine and butorphanol
  17. 17. Pharmacokinetic Tips Long Ears For the most part mules metabolize most drugs similar to horses but still the sedation may wear off sooner  This effect is probably due to the large genetic variability of the type of dam the mule is out of  Example: A racing mule out of a “hot blooded” mare compared to a draft mule out of a docile “cold blooded” mare  Generally, speaking a mule will require ~ 50% more xylazine to produce an adequate sedation before administering ketamine and the duration is shorter Some medications can produce complications such as breathing in donkeys When working with your veterinarian on sedation consider how tame/wild your long eared animal is because this will also determine which combination of drugs a person uses Refer to the AAEP Proceedings/Vol 48/2002 “Anesthesia of donkeys and mules: how they differ from horses” by Dr. Nora Matthews
  18. 18. Other Management Areas: Health Care Consider using a de-wormer at least 1 a year with Ivermectin both Mules and Donkeys are susceptible to lungworms and can serve as hosts Donkeys are susceptible to skin parasites- lice and flies Jack sores treated with ivermectin or moxidectin due to stomach worm (Cutaneous habronemiasis) Have blood work/analysis done on your mule/ donkey so you know his norms prior to illness
  19. 19. Other Management Areas: Health Care Beware of keeping donkeys in wet conditions often leads to hoof issues (i.e. abscesses, white line disease) Watch for founder/laminitis on the hind hooves as well as the front Caution should be exercised when castrating jacks so they don’t bleed to death  Speak with your veterinarian about ligating or tying off the spermatic vessels
  20. 20. Other Management Areas: Behavior Remember when a donkey is sick, it’s not likely they will show signs until near death, BEWARE of your donkey’s behavior Mules tend to show signs of acute pain and generally it’s easier for an owner to detect an issue When restraining donkeys and mules, avoid ear twitching and consider a twitch or pharmaceutical restraint Donkeys tend to show less response to a twitchcompared to a horse or mule
  21. 21. Other Management Areas: Behavior When working with both donkeys and mules remember to be patient! Try the reward system- food Be smarter than your mule or donkey, so think your plan through before attempting to execute it Donkeys and mules hardly ever forget so once they’ve had a bad reaction or got away with something they will not forget Get your hands on your mule foal! Don’t wait until it’s a yearling to touch it
  22. 22. Other Management Areas: Reproduction Consider behavioral differences when breeding When breeding jacks consider your environment Jacks can take all day to mount a mare or jenny or aggressively drag you to her Keep in mind not all Jacks will breed mares or vice versus a jenny Some jennies may cycle all year Beware of twinning in donkeys especially mammoths NI maybe an issue in mule foals consider having the mare tested prior to foaling
  23. 23. Resources AAEP Proceedings  www.ivis.org/proceedings/aaep/2002/910102000110.PDF  www.ivis.org/proceedings/AAEP/2002/910102000102.PD F  www.ivis.org/proceedings/aaep/2002/910102000115.PDF  www.ivis.org/proceedings/aaep/2002/910102000113.PDF Donkey Sanctuary,  http://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/ International Veterinary Information Servicehttp://www.ivis.org/home.asp
  24. 24. THANK YOU!