Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The last Straw

Several people wanted more information about the straw and why I wanted it.  Donkeys need very high fiber, low energy feed to thrive.  My hay, although cut deliberately late in the season so that it would be more mature, thus lower energy, higher fiber, is still a bit too rich for them.  The Donkey Sanctuary actually feeds barley straw as the main feed source for their healthy donkeys.   Of the three kinds of straw generally available, barley straw is lower in energy than oat straw and higher than wheat.  When fed with a balanced mineral supplement it can fill the needs for most donkeys as long as their teeth are good.  Whatever they don't eat, makes a nice bed for them so it is dual purpose.

For me however, straw is much harder to come by than hay and is exorbitantly expensive.  Often, it is not available at any price so hay has to be the main diet for Emma and Ramsey.  They do crave more roughage though.  For this reason, the wheat straw may actually be the best choice for us as it is going to have to be a supplement to hay rather then a replacement for it.  It's low energy will help balance the higher calorie hay and help satisfy their need for bulk.  I am hoping that it works that way for Tessa also as she needs fewer calories, but more bulk as well.

I can always tell when the horses or donkeys need more roughage, generally in the Spring and Fall, because they start nibbling on the barn.  The easiest way to stop or prevent wood chewing is to give them the roughage they need.  That truism, at least, has never failed me in all of the years I have had horses.

It is also the digestion of roughage that generates body heat and helps keep them warm.  Many people give their horses additional grain in the winter to help them "keep warm", but a heavy grain meal can actually rob them of heat instead.  A nice meal of coarse hay or straw is what will keep them warmest.


  1. How interesting. I didn't know any animal ate wheat straw. Is this the same wheat straw people around here buy for fall decorations...the small 3.00 bales? I don't mean for this to sound dumb. I would really like to know. (I may have a donkey soon). Thanks!

    1. I don't know about the 3.00 bales you refer to. If they are sold in farm supply stores or from farms, then I'd say yes, it's probably the same and safe to feed. If they are sold in craft stores or the like, I would be wary. I am sure it is wheat, but it may have been sprayed with something. If you post a picture of them, I may be able to tell you more. Also, where are you? Straw in some parts of the country is very cheap and easy to get.

      It is certainly NOT a dumb question. There is lots of very good information for new donkey owners at If you scroll to the bottom of their web page, there is a link that says care and feeding or care and advice, something like that. I would highly recommend reading through all their advice before you get your donkey(S). You have to have two you know?:)

      Feel free to get in touch if you have questions. My email is aerissana at gmail dot com. I hope you do get some donkeys, there are many in need of good homes and they are wonderul to have.

    2. Thank you so much for the help. I am in North Carolina...north of Raleigh. I will get some pictures of the bales of wheat straw. Glad you told me about needing two. Do you think it would be safe to put two small donkeys in with two pigmy goats? Thanks again.

    3. A qualified yes:) It depends on the donkeys. They have a reputation for being great protectors of goats and sheep and are often used as guard animals. They also have a reputation for harming goats and sheep on occasion. The key is to make sure that the donkeys have a chance to get to know the goats slowly, in a safe way. Donkeys are territorial and need time to get used to other animals living in their territory. I believe that when donkeys show aggression toward a goat or sheep that they have lived with, it is because something about the smaller animal changed so that the donkey does not recognize it anymore. For example if you have male goat who goes into rut abruptly, his scent will change. If a doe has babies, the donkey may see them as intruders until he gets to know them. Donkeys rely far more heavily on scent to recognize friends then they do vision.

      If it were me, this is what I would do: Set things up so that the donkeys and goats can get to know each other through a fence. Once they are getting along well, try short, supervised visits. Another suggestion would be to use electric fence like mine to create a fence inside of your existing fence that will contain the donkeys, but allow the goats to go under it. This way, the goats can always get away from the donkeys if needed.

      In general, the jennys (females) are probably your best choice as they are less apt to want to play with the goats, which could be too much for them. Do NOT get an ungelded jack. They are the most territorial and are not a good place to start if you do not have any experience with equines.

      Don't let this scare you away from donkeys, most of them do beautifully with other animals. They just need time to adjust and get used to them. Donkeys always need time to sort things out for themselves.

      I would highly recommend buying a copy of "The Donkey Companion" by Sue Weaver. It is very well written, has lots of good info and is a fun read as well. It is not a boring how-to book, it is filled with lots of fun stuff as well as need-to-know donkey info.

    4. I appreciate all this good information! If only I had gotten the two donkeys first! I wanted two small goats to love and hug and pet. So three years ago Dan bought the two we have now for my birthday. They turned out not to be so tame. I can pet the black one, If I am holding a bucket of feed but still can't touch the grey goat. Not much fun in that.

      I need to go out and do some looking, figuring, and planning. You have such a wonderful place for Emma and Ramsey. Also I will get the book you recommended. Thank you for helping me with this.

  2. thanks for the education on donkey diets.

  3. Yes yes yes. Roughage helps keep them warm!
    Thank you for stating the obvious and what people sometimes ignore.

  4. Great post DD! This is something that really can help donkeys but is not common in some areas, your blog is brilliant for 'spreading the word'. Hope the gang are enjoying the straw :-)

  5. Very interesting, and I did not know this, Kris, so thank you!