My name's Liz Hazell-Smith and I work here at the Sanctuary in our Veterinary Projects Department. This is my first blog which I hope you will enjoy and begin to follow!
Last week aith Burden (Vet Projects Department Manager) and I spent a day over at Axnoller Farm, where we weighed and condition scored all the animals on the farm. This included 22 ponies, 12 mules, 1 hinny, 2 horses and 212 donkeys! The animals are routinely weighed every month on all the farms, which flags up any animals losing or gaining weight rapidly, but a couple of times a year all the animals are condition scored and their requirements for feed are re-assessed.
We use a 5 point condition score system, with 1 being poor and 5 being obese. By using a condition score in conjunction with a weight record not only can we see when donkeys are losing or gaining weight, but also when their body shape is changing. This change could be a donkey losing fat but gaining muscle tone which might not show a significant change in weight, but would be noticeable when condition scored.
Some donkeys come onto the farm very overweight and are placed in 'diet' groups on restricted feed. Once they have reached their ideal weight they will be placed in a weight maintenance group. On the other hand some donkeys come in underweight, or require extra feed as they get older and these donkeys will be separated from the main groups and given extra feed once or twice a day as necessary. We did highlight a few cases where donkeys, and indeed some of the ponies, needed to come off extra feeds as they are now a healthy weight and we don't want them to put on too much extra weight. We also identified a few donkeys who have been struggling to maintain their weight, due to a combination of old age and poor teeth, and they are now happily tucking into an extra feed!
This is a part of my job which I love, going out on the farms, seeing the donkeys and putting the science into practice.