Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Cost of Owning Donkeys

It never fails that I hear or see people taking on donkeys with 1. absolutely no prior research or knowledge and 2. with no idea of how much donkeys cost to keep. Donkeys tend to be a little lower cost to keep compared to horses, and, depending on how you keep them and how careful you are with your setup, feed, etc, you may avoid some of the basic ailments. However, donkeys DO cost quite a bit to keep, and anyone looking at purchasing or adopting or rescuing must be aware before diving in.

Another thing to think about is donkeys can live up to 50 years or more if cared for well. You may need to put them in your will with a trust fund dedicated to them.

The scenario we see most is that someone with a kind heart rescues a neglected donkey from a bad situation, and soon realizes they are over their head and the donkey gets passed around at the best, or neglected more and sent to Mexico at the worst. In an effort to educate and inform new and potentially new donkey owners BEFORE taking on large animals with many expensive needs, here is a list of expenses you may encounter while owning a donkey. This is not a full list, mind you, and expenses vary widely in different regions.  I am going to approximate costs for the very basics-if you keep your donkeys on your own property. Boarding costs for those without property are also approximated.

Fence- varies widely by region and type. NOT cheap if well made and safe.
Three sided loafing shed- 1500-3000
Shed for Hay storage- 2000-10000 (higher end is for a very simple small pre built barn with no doors). You can tarp hay on pallets but it doesn't keep as well, and you will inevitably lose some to mold.
Water tank- 150
Water tank heater- 30-50
Salt and mineral blocks- must replace when licked down- 20
Blanket- 75-200
First aid kit-$150-400 depending on how fancy you want to get.
First vet visit- $40-100 call fee plus exam. All new animals should get a physical from a  donkey knowledgeable vet. That way your vet already knows your animals and when you have an emergency, they will have you on their radar.
First hoof trim- $30-55. Most new donkeys will need their hooves trimmed, especially if they haven't been taken very good care of before. The price may increase if the donkey's feet are not able to be handled, as you will have to get a sedative from the vet beforehand.
Castration-Many people end up rescuing jacks. They are basically stallions and do need to be castrated ASAP if in good enough health. Costs for this vary widely. Remember, there may be costs afterwards for any complications if the vet needs to come back.

Hay-depends on region. Can be anywhere from $3 a bale to $20 a bale depending on where you live. Your costs will have to do with how large your donkey is and what they need to eat. They eat more in the winter to keep them warm. Our mammoth donkeys each eat around 12-15 lbs per day. Times that by four=60 lbs a day. A BIG small bale is around 60 lbs.  So, assuming I have heavy bales (which I usually don't) that's 30 bales a month at $7 a bale. That's $210 a month. On the low end.
Grain-most donkeys don't really need any grain, but here we use a little to put supplements in. $25 per month.
Farrier- $30-55 at least bimonthly, sometimes monthly.
Water and electric- depends on your region and how big your donkeys are and how much they drink. Electric costs, especially int he winter for heating tanks, can get very high. Here, we pay around an extra $70 a month for electric in the winter.
Bedding/shavings- $30 per bag. One bag may last a few days. If you can find shavings in bulk, it costs less. Some people use bedding and some do not.
Dewormer- Dewormer should be done in accordance to fecal exams done by your vet a few times a year ($25 per fecal plus vet visit fees). Individual dewormers cost around $10 each.
Seasonal things--fly spray-$25 per spray bottle.

If you board your donkeys- $100-300 per donkey per month depending on the facilities and care. For self care or pasture board, costs may be lower. $100-300 costs approximated include hay/grain. Most boarding facilities require you provide salt/mineral licks and anything else besides hay/paddock/shelter/water/maybe grain. Self care board means you keep your equine at the facility but you do all of the care/feeding/maybe even get your own hay.

Vet Costs:
I have had to fork over over $1200 within a few days for vet costs before. Some months, no vet costs occur. But a prolonged colic or serious injury or illness can rack up vet bills like you wouldn't imagine. Donkeys are live animals who feel pain and who get steadily worse if care is put off. They aren't like a car that you can put up on blocks until you can find the part.  If you can't have at least a few hundred dollars stashed away and a viable line of credit, donkeys probably aren't a good idea. When they need help they need it YESTERDAY, and waiting is not a good idea. By the time donkeys show that they are ill, many times they are very ill. They tend to hide illnesses. It is a hard thing to think about, but having the money for euthanasia is super important as well. Euthanasia costs vary widely as well but can be as low as $300 and range up much much higher than that!  There is nothing worse than having your donkey get ill and not having the money to help ease their passing in a  humane way. No matter how hard it is to think about, you also need to know how you will dispose of the body safely. Backhoes aren't cheap, even for hire, and other means of disposal can be very costly, hundreds of dollars or more.

For those who rescue pregnant donkeys, pre-birth exams are important and extra hay and grain may be needed before and after birth for the dam. In case of any complications, having a good equine vet on call who already knows the donkey is super important. Having a good, safe foaling area with straw bedding, is important as well.

Training costs:
I only know what we charge, but if you want a professional trainer to come out once a week to give you and your donkey lessons on groundwork, riding, driving, packing etc, we charge around $35 per hour, more if the client is farther away and requires more driving.

While this list is not in any way a total cost list, as different people have very different requirements and different regions have different costs. It is just a good starting place to look at what donkeys can cost and what to plan for. Having money stashed away is super important both for your peace of mind and also so that you cancer for your donkeys in a timely fashion.   Rescuing a donkey is only helpful to that animal if you can afford their health care. We have taken on too many rescues at once and ended up in over our heads before. It isn't a good situation. Now, we stick to only doing what we can reasonably afford.

Hopefully this list helps some prospective or new donkey owners understand what goes into caring for donkeys.