According to the Texas Department of Agriculture, donkeys, or burros, are gaining in popularity among ranchers and farmers for protection of sheep and goats. This practice capitalizes on the herding instincts as well as a natural dislike and aggressiveness of some donkeys toward dogs and coyotes.
With proper management practices, guard donkeys can be a great asset for protecting sheep and goats. Mules are also being used as guard animals but to a lesser extent.
Under proper conditions guard donkeys can provide a high degree of around-the-clock protection against dogs and coyotes. They may also offer some protection from foxes and bobcats; however, larger predators such as mountain lions, grey wolves and black bears may prey on donkeys.
Donkeys are compatible with most traditional methods of predator control and can be used in an integrated predator management program. Additionally, donkeys can forage with sheep or goats, are inexpensive to acquire and maintain, and have an expected useful life of 10 to 15 years as guard animals.
Donkeys are widely available from breeders and are frequently sold at livestock auctions. Jennies (females) are suitable for use as guard animals. Jacks (intact males), which cost about half as much as jennies, should be gelded before use as guard animals. Proven guard donkeys may cost more.
Another source of donkeys is the bureau of Land Management Adopt-A-Burro program; however, conditions of adoption my complicate disposal of unsuitable animals. After initial acquisition of breeding stock, some guard donkey users produce their own donkeys. This practice allows selection for donkeys with good guarding tendencies.
Donkeys are very hardy and usually require minimal care. Annual worming and occasional supplemental feeding during periods of poor range conditions will be required.
Water should be readily available and snow or ice should not be relied on for meeting water intake needs during cold weather. Do not allow donkeys access to feed containing Rumensin, urea, or other products intended only for ruminants.
Donkeys should be vaccinated against common equine diseases, such as tetanus and encephalitis. Veterinary care, hoof trimming and floating of teeth will be necessary to keep the donkeys in good health.
About the author
As an animal lover since childhood, Flossie was delighted when Mark, the CEO and developer of EquiMed asked her to join his team of contributors.
She enrolled in My Horse University at Michigan State and completed a number of courses in everything related to horse health, nutrition, diseases and conditions, medications, hoof and dental care, barn safety, and first aid.
Staying up-to-date on the latest developments in horse care and equine health is now a habit, and she enjoys sharing a wealth of information with horse owners everywhere..