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When we think of livestock guardian animals, we usually think of guardian dogs or llamas. Donkeys are usually thought of as a reluctant work animal with a grumpy disposition. But the truth is, donkeys can be a very effective and loyal livestock guardian for sheep, goats, chickens, and even calves. They are naturally inclined to defend their territory from single canine predators like foxes, coyotes, and roaming dogs. If you haven’t considered the lowly donkey as a guardian for your herd, you just might be missing out!

A guardian donkey will be protective of his or her territory and be very alert while socializing and grazing with the rest of the herd. When his territory is threatened, he will go on the defensive very aggressively. His front and hind legs make formidable weapons and he will use his teeth as well. Their loud braying could sometimes be enough to scare off a predator, and it will also serve as an alarm to you and the other animals that something is wrong.

Choosing a Guard Donkey

The best guard donkeys are usually raised up with their herd from the time they are a foal. A jenny with a foal makes a great choice because the foal will bond with the herd as it grows up, and it will be a superb guardian. A jenny on her own may work out well, too, as long as she is used to being around other livestock. A gelded male donkey could also be a good choice. Jacks, or intact males, don’t usually work out well as guardians because they can be much too aggressive with other livestock. Just be sure the donkey you choose is a standard size or larger. Miniature donkeys are too small to be effective as a livestock guardian because they will be prey themselves. The same goes for baby or very young donkeys.

When introducing a new donkey to your herd, it’s best to set up a separate paddock for the donkey within your pasture. Keep the donkey separated for several weeks, and use that time to let the donkey get used to you. Introduce the donkey to your other animals slowly over time, and don’t let her loose unsupervised with the herd until they’ve had plenty of time to get used to each other. Don’t ever purchase an unmanageable donkey, especially if you are not experienced with equines.

Pros of Using a Guardian Donkey to Protect Your Livestock

Donkeys will bond with their herd over time and become very territorial. Often, the smaller animals in the herd will come to look at their guardian donkey as a protector over time, and will run to her when threatened. When a donkey’s territory becomes threatened, it will become very aggressive and charge at the threat in an attempt to chase it away. It will use its feet and teeth as deadly weapons, even potentially killing a single canine predator.

Donkeys often live for 30 years or more, so when you find a good one you can count on her for a long time. They don’t cost much to purchase, either. Their fencing and housing requirements are much like sheep and goats. Donkeys are generally calm until threatened, so you won’t need to worry about them being aggressive towards your guests. Unlike livestock guardian dogs, donkeys don’t roam, and they won’t keep you or your neighbors up all night with their barking.

Cons of Using a Guardian Donkey to Protect Your Livestock

Some donkeys won’t confront canines, and will choose to run away instead of standing their ground or charging. Others will only protect themselves and pay no attention when other animals are threatened. Some donkeys can be aggressive toward other livestock, too. Be especially careful of donkeys around lambs and kids. It can be difficult to know if a donkey is going to make a good guardian until you bring her home and try her out.

Donkeys can’t defend against large predators like bears, wolves, mountain lions, or wild hogs. They are not effective against a pack of canines either. They probably won’t pay any attention to small predators, like raccoons, or flying predators, like hawks. A single donkey won’t be very effective in a very large pasture where the herd is scattered in a large area.

Some donkeys will bray a lot if they are lonely, bored, or at feeding or treat time. This could disturb your neighbors and your family as well. Some guardian donkeys may not ever accept your homestead dogs and may attack them just like they would any other predator.

Caring for Your Guardian Donkey

If you are familiar with handling horses, you should do very well with a donkey. Their feeding, handling, and care requirements are pretty much the same as other equines. They require regular hoof trimming, vaccines, and check-ups. Donkeys will drink a lot more water than goats and sheep, so plan accordingly.

Feed your donkey plenty of hay. He will also need trace mineral salts and probably some grain to keep his weight up, especially in the winter time when grass is scarce. Your donkey will need to be fed separately from your sheep and goats. Don’t ever give your donkey access to Rumensin, urea, or other feed or supplements that are meant only for ruminants. Donkeys originally come from desert climates, so they do not grow a warm undercoat like horses do. They will need good shelter from rain and snow.

Don’t ever interfere with a donkey that is defending his territory. If you do, he may view you as a threat as well, and you will get kicked or bitten. If a donkey has attacked or chased off a predator, you should give him plenty of time to calm down before you attempt to approach him.

Conclusion

Donkeys can make excellent livestock guardians in situations where a guardian dog may not be ideal. Donkeys can often be trained for riding and pulling, making them a multi-use animal on the homestead. All-in-all, a guardian donkey is definitely worth your consideration when choosing a livestock guardian for your homestead.

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7 Days in Spain (Continued): A Taste of Spanish History and Culture

Spain is an intoxicating land of sunshine and sangria, nestled on the Iberian peninsula in south western Europe. Our journey continues as we discovered how this country brims with historically and culturally significant sites, over 40 of which have been recognized as World Heritage material by UNESCO. The following itinerary takes in the highlights of these sites such as the Sagrada Familia, the Prado Museum, the Alhambra, the Mezquita and the “City of Three Cultures,” Toledo. You can tour around Spain independently, or make your way with the help of the Centro de Turismo in Madrid, who can help you arrange everything required, including recommend reliable tour guides.

Day 1

Land in Madrid, Spain’s vibrant, cosmopolitan capital city. On your first day, acclimatize to the time difference and weather by taking a walk around your hotel or hostel. You can also immerse yourself in the grand art contained within the four walls of the El Prado, Madrid’s crown jewel of museums. El Prado is Madrid’s top cultural site and houses a dazzling display of European painters from Velazquez, Goya, Raphael, and Rubens, among other greats. Later, take a stroll along the Gran Via to soak in the glorious architecture, and end your day at the Plaza del Mayor, Madrid’s historical heart.

Day 2

The Castile region is more than just Madrid, fascinating as it may be, so it’s time to take the train out to Toledo for a daytrip. You can either organize a daytrip yourself or go with a recommended tour agent; it’s an easy journey by train from Madrid’s main station. Toledo is a melting pot of Christian, Jewish and Muslim influences and this is apparent in the city’s art, architecture and culture. The Alcazar, which overlooks the entire city, is a must-see, as is the Cathedral and the monastery of San Juan.

Day 3

Another day, another train trip, this time to the north, to medieval Segovia, a UNESCO World Heritage listed city. The main attraction here is the Roman built aqueduct which was raised in the 1st century without the use of mortar and still stands, a graceful reminder of the might of Rome. Nearby is the fairy tale-like Alcazar, with its steel grey turrets piercing the Castillan sky. Rumour has it that Walt Disney copied Sleeping Beauty’s castle from the Sevillan example.

Day 4

Board yet another train from Atocha, Madrid’s main station – this time all the way south to Granada, where the main attraction is the graceful, air-filled Alhambra, a Moorish palace rising from the hills like a ship anchored to the land. Inside, the Nazaries Palace houses lavish rooms which look out onto gardens filled with dancing fountains and perfectly landscaped hedges, but the most famous sight within the Alhambra is the Palacio de Leons – the Palace of the Lions, with its intricate carvings.

Day 5

From Granada, a short bus ride takes you to Cordoba, another Spanish city with Moorish influences. Your first stop here should be the Mezquita, originally a mosque, then turned into a cathedral during the Reconquista of Cordoba in the 13th century. The red and white forest of pillars are an icon of the city and the highlight of many photographs here. From here, board an overnight sleeper train to Barcelona.

Day 6

Here in the city that Gaudi sculpted, the towers of the Sagrada Familia continue to rise above the skyline. Work on this monumental cathedral is due to be completed in 2026, more than 140 years since it began. The Sagrada Familia a symbol of Barcelona – some would even say, of Spain. Gaudi’s genius is evident in every detail from the entry motifs to the soaring pillars supporting a flower encrusted ceiling.

Day 7

On your last day in Barcelona, visit the Picasso Museum, which holds the largest collection of works by the artist outside of Paris. The well known painter was also an accomplished graphic designer, sculptor and engraver. Many of the works displayed in the Picasso Museum have never been shown anywhere else, and represent Picasso’s earlier days as a fledging artist. From here, hop on a short flight to Madrid, homeward bound.


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