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Management Recommendations For

Management Recommendations For

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Published by karki Keadr Dr

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Published by: karki Keadr Dr on Jul 01, 2008
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Management Recommendations forDonkeys and MulesDr.Kedar KarkiIntroduction
There are estimated to be 50 million donkeys (
Equus asinus
) and as many mulesworldwide. They can be used for such applications as riding, driving, flockprotection, companion, breeding, and training calves. Donkeys and mules arenot small horses. They have anatomical and physiological differences comparedto horses and their care requires special consideration. Structural differencescompared to horses mean that they require specialized tack and harness forriding and driving (1).
Jack: Male donkeyJennet or Jenny (both pronounced the same): Female donkeyDonkey gelding: Castrated male donkeyMule: The offspring of the mating of a jack with a mare (female horse)Hinny: The offspring of the mating of a stallion (male horse) with a jennetMature animals can be further designated into the following classificationsbased on height measured at the withers:Miniature: under 36 inchesSmall Standard: from 36.01 to 48 inchesLarge Standard: over 48 inches and under 54 inches for females; over 48 inchesand under 56 inches for jacks and geldingsMammoth: 54 inches or over for females and 56 inches or over for maleFor more information on registration guidelines, contact the Canadian Donkeyand Mule Association.
Anatomical Differences Between Horses and Donkeys
A number of anatomical differences can challenge the first-time donkey ownerand their veterinarian. Two of these include:
an obscured jugular furrow (the place where blood samples are taken ortranquilizers are given). The cutaneous coli muscle is much thicker thanin the horse and hides the middle third of the jugular vein. It is easier tofind the upper third of the jugular.
The nasolacrimal duct of the donkey is located on the flare of the nostrilrather than the floor of the nostril as it is in the horse (2).
Donkeys and mules are known to be very stoic animals that are slow to showpain and discomfort. While these characteristics may be desirable in manycases, it can lead to problems identifying a sick animal.The attributes we assign to a donkey being stubborn and having a lack of intelligence are actually from their natural responses to new experiences andlogical interpretation of a situation. Being tough animals, they will kick easilyand swiftly (2). Donkeys and mules are very social animals and will benefittremendously from the companionship of other animals, such as horses, cattle,sheep or goats. 
Nutrition and Pasture Management
Donkeys and mules can survive on coarser pastures than a horse. Lush pasturessuitable for horses may be too rich in protein and energy and, therefore,unsuitable for donkeys. Dry matter intake of feed as a percentage of bodyweight should be 1.75%-2.25% to meet the metabolic demands for maintenancefor most donkeys and mules. Animals that are pregnant, nursing, growing, orused for heavy work, will have additional feed requirements (rolled oats, grain,hay or pasture) above their maintenance requirements (1).Donkeys allowed to graze freely on rich pastures may be prone to obesity,laminitis (founder) and hyperlipidemia (excess of fat in the blood). Whencalculating the energy demands of your donkey, it is important to know thattheir body weight cannot be estimated using a girth weight tape intended forhorses. Body condition scoring of donkeys will also require a different mind setfrom that used with horses since donkeys deposit fat somewhat differently thanhorses.Donkeys can be alternated with cattle and sheep on pasture. This managementhelps maximize pasture usage and reduces the occurrence of parasites, sincethe parasites are not generally shared between species (1,3). Sheep and/orcattle grazing pastures after donkeys consume the remaining grass along withhatched larvae that have migrated from stool clumps up to the grass blades.
Donkeys commonly create an area where they can take dust and/or sand bathsduring warm weather (4).Donkeys and mules should always have access to clean water and a salt. Loosesalt is preferred over a salt block since they will consume a greater volume of loose salt than from a block, especially in below zero degree temperatures.Most animals will consume anywhere from 10 to 25 litres of water per day.Snow will not provide these animals with enough water to meet their needs.Care must be taken to ensure an unfrozen water supply in ambienttemperatures below 0°C.
Donkeys and mules originated as desert animals and are well adapted towarmer climates. They can do well in cooler climates, but they do requireshelters or barns in the colder and wet weather. Indoor housing or run-in shedsare needed during periods of weather extremes, especially for donkey maresand their foals. The coat of a donkey does not provide the protection neededand the foals can become chilled easily. Donkeys tend to grow longer, coarsercoats that lack the protective undercoat that horses have in the winter (4).
Hoof Care
Hoof care for donkeys and mules is required every 6-8 weeks. There aredifferences in the conformation of the donkey hoof compared to the horse. Ingeneral, the hooves are more upright, tougher, and more elastic than those of ahorse. The bulbs of the donkey hoof are less developed and the fusion of thebulbs of the heel is less complete. The heels are naturally long. The pasternangles are greater than the horse. The frog of the donkey hoof is not meant tobe weight-bearing (5). Overall, mules will have varying degrees of resemblanceto either donkeys or horses (6).
Genetics and Breeding
Horses have 64 chromosomes, while donkeys have 62. When horses and donkeysare mated, the mule offspring have 63 chromosomes. The gestation period indonkeys is 12 months on average, but it may vary from 11 to 14 months.Despite being considered sterile, mare mules and mare hinnies will have estruscycles. These cycles can be regular, or erratic and variable. Female hinnies andmules can be used as embryo transfer recipients but care must be given tocompatibility of donor and recipient. There have been documented cases of fertility in the female mule but not the female hinny (7). A report fromMorocco indicates that a mule mare produced a foal with 62 chromosomes. Thecells of the mule mare were a mosaic, some carrying 63 chromosomes while

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