Monday, October 7, 2013

State of the Farm Address - part one

It seems like there has been lots going on lately, things that I would write about except I am always so behind that I can't find the energy to do it.  I decided to try to update some of the more interesting things all at once.  At least I think it's all interesting:)...


I am finally feeling a bit healthier after some heavy-duty antibiotics, although still wheezy and short of breath.  That is nothing new, unfortunately.  My traitorous lungs have been a constant source of trouble for most of my life.  They are what kept me from going to vet school way back in the day.  Along with chronic bronchitis, I had pneumonia six times in my first two years of college.  I have always regretted that I did not go to vet school as planned, but I also know that my lungs wouldn't have made it through.  So, it is what it is and most of the time my lungs and I manage OK.  I just have to work harder at avoiding the plague the next time it comes around.  I think an armed checkpoint at the end of my driveway might be in order.


Several people have asked about Ramsey's foot, I know I am terribly behind and I apologize for it.  It has been ages since I did a donkey-foot update.  The short answer is that he is doing well.  He is a sound, spoiled, adolescent donkey boy.   I have been taking them for walks with me 3-4 times a week.  They love it and the exercise is good for all of us.  I am happy with the way they both look, the have both gained muscle tone and Emma has lost a bit of flab. They are both sleek, soft and shiny and their weight is good (or at least not terrible in Emma's case).

The longer answer is that I am not entirely happy with the foot.  If you look very closely at the photo above, you can see that the whole foot tips to the inside.  Looking at the photo below, the foot looks good front to back.  Except...there is that little dark line that runs right down the center of it.  It ends right where the hoof wall does not connect well.  I am not sure what to make of that, and neither was the vet who was here last week for Emma. 

In the photo below, you can see what I mean about the foot tipping inwards.  It is actually much better then it was, but I still don't like it.  It really does not show up well on the photos, but the whole hoof capsule is sort of twisted.  You can see it in the way the streak of light hitting it bends, that line should be straight.

I have been trying to correct this with trimming, but I think that I need to try to realign the whole hoof in order to straighten the bones in his foot.  If I trim this foot the way the hoof wants, the leg bends.  If I trim the way the leg wants, the hoof curves under.  I think I need to trim the hoof true to the hoof and then perhaps use an equicast or an epoxy to align the foot to the boney column.  I might need x-rays.

His foot was so abnormal for so long and all of it during his peak growth, that I believe it has effected the way the leg has grown.  I discussed my ideas at length with the vet last week and she agrees with me.  However, she also says she is not a farrier. 
I am either going to give myself a very stern lecture about the follies of cowardice and just fix this or...I am going to wimp out and take him back to Cornell.  Either way, I need to do something soon while Ramsey's bones are still young enough to adjust. 

I would very dearly love to talk with someone who is willing to work with me and who really, really knows about donkey feet and in particular, a pediatric donkey with a quarter of his coffin bone missing.  Does such a person exist?


I am slowly working my way through the nutrition/soil angles.  Some of my tests went astray before they reached me so I am having to repeat some of them.  In doing all of this research, I have found a ton of data that was not available back when I last studied all of this.  I finally decided to enroll in Elanor Kellon's equine nutrition course, which is supposed to be the gold standard when it comes to nutrition and balancing an equine diet.  So far, it hasn't covered any new territory for me yet, but it is early and I am hoping it will.

There does not seem to be any good data on how the nutrient requirements for donkeys vary from that of a horse.  Their dietary needs are assumed to be similar to a horse.  However, donkeys eat a much wider variety of food and need a lot less of it.  I would like to put together some more information on donkey nutrition.  Any donkey dieticians out there?

One of the things I do know for certain is that my soil is extremely acidic and this is a major contributor to the hoof problems I am seeing.   It causes problems both from a nutritional aspect and from the constant exposure of acid to the hooves, especially in a wet year like this one.  My feed analysis shows that I have very high levels of iron and extremely high levels of manganese in my feed.  The acid soil leads to aluminum/manganese toxicity in plants and in turn, the animals who eat it.  The only thing I can do to alleviate this is try to increase soil pH.  The only way to do that is to spread lime. 

I did have lime spread on these fields a few years ago, but as bad as my soil is, it will take many years to correct.  It has been so wet here this year that I did not think I would be able to spread any more lime yet.  However, we had two whole weeks with no rain and I called McDowell and Walker last week to see if they could fit it in.  I was surprised when they called Friday morning and said my name was at the top of the list.  I couldn't afford to do as much as I would have liked, but every bit helps.
This job isn't actually as dusty as it looks, it just billows out like this when they first start.   The timing worked out perfectly for once, as the weather was still and calm while they were spreading and then we had a steady downpour the next morning to drive the lime into the ground.


This is turning out much longer then I anticipated so I am going to end here and try to finish tomorrow.  I am suddenly too tired to remember all the other interesting stuff going on.  Night all.


  1. I may be your newest follower. I've enjoyed reading about your farm and donkeys and am amazed that you have done all this alone! We have a small hobby farm and I so much want a miniature donkey to live with our 2 pet goats. Thanks for all the good, helpful information. Your blog is great!

    1. Thank you Henny Penny and welcome aboard. I am glad you enjoy the blog.

  2. On donkey dieticians and such, have you been in touch with The Donkey Sanctuary UK. ? They may be able to help you and maybe even be interested in what you are trying to do.

    1. Hi Mel, I just sent them an email this afternoon, I'll be very interested in what they have to say.

  3. That's a gorgeous photo of Emma and Ramsey - they are beautiful! I really appreciate your taking the time to detail Ramsey's hoof situation. No, I've never had a donkey (I've always been a small animal owner) and can't even remember when I've been close to one in person. But the subject fascinates me, I love your pair, and you're a great educator. Now I know why - you are truly a vet at heart. You made the problems clear, but just remember how far you and Ramsey have come from the first discovery of his problem. You and your "medical staff" have worked wonders!

    Nancy in Iowa

    1. Thanks Nancy, I really am mostly happy with Ramsey's foot, I just want to make sure I do all can for it. It isn't pretty at the moment, but it is sound and functional and that is what I care about.

  4. Great post! The hoof issue I would be in two minds about, sometimes if you correct too much it is not always in the best interests as the foot will often do what it needs to.... but as you say Ramsey is still young enough that it may be worth trying. Some xrays and pics from your vet to the DS vets may be worth a try.

    On the subject of iron and manganese excess this may be a problem and yes liming is likely to help but it takes years and still some land will never come good I'm afraid. Feeding as much as you can as forage with good nutrient levels will help as will careful supplementation. I've found really basic straw diets topped up with a balanced supplement the best approach for donkeys as this mimics their natural diet better than grass rich diets, naturally they would eat lignin rich plant material for bulk and then supplement with tiny amounts of greenery and mineral dense woody twigs / seeds / roots. In most domestic situations there is no easy answer.... except for putting them back in the desert, mountainous areas of their ancestors - best feet I ever see on donkeys are those in Africa!

    Donkey nutrition - very happy always to talk, can be contacted through the DS - my 'real' name is Faith Burden, not always known as FH!! ;-)

    1. Thanks FH! I have sent you an email at the DS. I know what you mean about over correcting and I hope I am not doing that. I think I will have a new set of xrays taken, I would have done it last week when the vet was out to see Emma, but she did not have the xray machine with her.

      I don't think a move to Africa is in any of our futures so I guess we will just keep plugging along:)

  5. This was a very interesting post, Kris, thank you!

  6. Hi there. I have forwarded your post today to my donkey whisperer, Peter from Hoofworks. Whilst he's based in Australia, he does travel worldwide giving barefoot workshops and is well known for treating the impossible cases. One of my boys has made a remarkable recovery under Peter's watchful eye. Here's hoping he has time to provide you with some words of encouragement and advice.


    PS - I think you've done an amazing job to date on little Ramsay's foot. You deserve a good pat on the back for your dedication and commitment, well done.

    1. Thanks Karen, I would certainly be interested in his opinion!

  7. Last night I gave my first attempt at a trim. Well "clean up" is more appropriate. I find that I am really struggling with the strength in my hands to work the nippers, and mostly managed to shred the skin on my hands while trying to rasp. I didn't accomplish much other than nipping off the splits and chunks to keep them from tearing anymore. I will try again in a day or two when I'm not so exhausted.

    But I have to tell you that while attempting this I kept asking myself, "What would Kris do?" LOL

  8. I am STILL waiting on my soil test results here. Yeesh.

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