Amy Delvecchio, Beryl Lee, Grace Wong
On November 19th, the Animal Science Club took a trip to Camar Farms, a local miniature donkey farm. The owner of the farm, Professor Andy Robinson(who also teaches at UoG) gave us a tour of the facilities. First, we got to see some of the other residents of the farm: two horses who used to jump but were now happily retired as well as Sirius the cat. Then it was time to meet the stars of the show, the miniature donkeys!
Since it had been raining (snowing even), we didn’t go into the paddocks with the donkeys, instead they were brought up to the barn to meet us. They were very laid back, friendly and everyone had the chance to pet them, take pictures with them and enjoy our time with those friendly little guys!
We learned lots about the breeding program held at the farm, and the history of the property. Camar Farms breeds strictly miniature donkeys, and their breeding program amounts to about 4 foals every year. The farm will take the donkeys sold back, even if it’s years later, if the buyer can no longer take care of it. It is imperative that the babies stay with their mothers until they are old enough (about 5 months old) before they are weaned from the mother and her milk so they can develop properly. This is a very important process prior to selling the foals. Professor Robinson told us that the most effective way is to take the donkey away from its mother, to its new home right when it is due to be weaned. He described this as “cold turkey”. The mother and the baby must not be at close proximity to each other otherwise they will keep calling to each other. Having more space also seems to put less emotional stress on the donkeys.
The latter are considered as livestock but many people buy them as outdoor pets, “lawn ornaments” or as therapy animals. They also serve as herd animals to keep company to other livestock such as goats and horses. One of them has already been sold and is soon to be sent to Nova Scotia to keep the cows company!
Professor Robinson also taught us a great deal about donkeys. There are three types of donkeys namely the miniature, standard and mammoth donkey and they can live up to 30 years!
One fact that really surprised us was that donkeys could be better livestock guardians than some guard dogs to protect the livestock from predators like coyotes. Although miniature donkeys who are disadvantaged by their size will not hesitate to fight–first with a loud, intimidating “roar”. Not like a lion’s roar, but rather a really loud, surprising “HEE-HAW”. If the “roar” doesn’t deter the coyotes or predators, then the next move for the donkeys’ line of defense is to actually charge at them. They pack quite a punch and, as Professor Robinson put it, the donkeys could certainly keep up with the coyotes in terms of speed. They’re impressive animals and not afraid to protect their own.
Miniature donkeys are quite the fascinating bunch. With the two retired horses trotting around in the background, we would just marvel at how truly miniature the donkeys were in comparison to the horses! They’re tiny! It was an amazing experience as we don’t get to see and touch such beautiful beings in our everyday lives.
This opportunity to interact with these miniature donkeys and listening Professor Robinson explain, with passion, the habits of the donkeys, their diet (simple but balanced), how they are treated, and just the overall relationship he has with the donkeys strongly affirmed of the concepts and themes learned in the outdoor seminars. To co-exist with these wonderful creatures, we need to learn to give and take and learn to put the animal’s well-being before ours at times. Professor Robinson’s purpose was neither for personal gain nor money-driven–his goal was to keep the donkeys happy and healthy in an environment where they can thrive until they find new owners that he makes sure will treat them equally well.
The Animal Science Society gave us this opportunity to really branch out our knowledge and experiences with animals and their lives, as well as the lifestyles of those who co-live with them, such as the professor. Some of us have never really gotten a chance to see this, and being in an environment such as this really opened our eyes up to the opportunities and the extensiveness of the world. This humbled us a little bit as we might have thought that the city’s where everything revolves around–but, no, there are just so much more to this world than our limited views. The Animal Science Society has been widening up our horizons with trips such as these and meetings that reflected these perspectives. Although the miniature donkey sanctuary trip was the last event of the semester, previously the Society has visited an ostrich farm in October and had a volunteering opportunity at the Humane Society.
This video was taken at the farm. This is what the miniature donkeys sound like in their “social” call. Female miniature donkeys are called “jennet”s and would call out to the “jack”, the male donkeys. In this video a jennet was “hee-haw”ing while a jack responded in the background.