Selecting a Guard Donkey

| 5/29/2014 9:19:00 AM

Tags: livestock guardians, donkeys, Michigan, Jan Dohner,

guard donkey

In previous posts, we have looked at how guard donkeys work and we’ve examined the pros and cons of using a donkey as a livestock guardian. If you are contemplating using a donkey, let’s look now at how to select a good candidate and how to integrate him or her into your stock.

Donkey Traits and Behavior

You need to keep in mind the traits and behaviors that make a good guard donkey. Donkeys are alert animals and they are very territorial. They are generally willing to interact with other grazing animals. Most importantly, most donkeys have an instinctive dislike of canines. As a guardian, donkeys are not deliberately protecting livestock. They are primarily protecting their grazing area and themselves, although a jennie with a foal is a strong maternal protector. Neither do they patrol pastures looking for threats. If your donkey is somewhat bonded to your stock and chooses to stay with them as they graze, he or she will also provide the deterrence of a large animal among the smaller goats or sheep. Your stock, on the other hand, may come to see their donkey as a protector and gather near if they feel threatened.

It is important to assess if a potential guard donkey has a strong instinctual dislike of canines. Some donkeys will flee a predator if threatened and others will only confront the canine if they feel threatened themselves. However, if they do attack, donkeys can be fearsome and deadly towards a dog or a coyote. Despite this aggressive reaction, a single donkey cannot be expected to deal with multiple dogs and coyotes or wolves, bears, or mountain lions.

Donkeys and Dogs

If it is at all possible, test the potential guard donkey’s reaction to canines by presenting a strange dog to the donkey in a small corral or pasture. Be extremely careful not to endanger the dog. Donkeys can quickly kill a dog. Donkeys may not alert to familiar dogs, but be wary if the seller claims this is the reason the donkey is not reacting to his own dog. This may be true, but some donkeys may not react to any dogs. It is actually preferable that the donkey not be socialized towards any dogs. 

If you already have a predator problem, choose a donkey that is at least three years old so that it is past the playful, rambunctious stage. Some users believe that placing a weanling donkey (6 months of age or so) with stock is a good method for fostering a bond with goats or sheep; however, a young donkey cannot be an effective guardian right away. A young donkey might also be bullied by the stock or play too roughly with young animals.

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