If anyone thinks that slimming donkeys isn't practical or possible, I’d like to share with you what a great job the staff at Axnoller Farm have done with their weight loss group.
Just over a year ago, eight donkeys were identified as being condition score 4 or more and desperately needing a helping hand to shed some excess weight. Since then the eight donkeys have lost 131kg between them, which is pretty much a whole donkey in weight!
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.
We also kept a track of their heart girth measurements and tried out taking belly girth measurements as well to see if this was useful. I can say that it's even harder to take a belly girth measurement in the same position every month than taking a heart girth. We used the point of hip as a guide and took the measurement one hand's length forward of this point, which seems to be about the widest point of the donkey. As it's quite hard to retake in exactly the same place, and as a belly girth will vary according to gut fill, it's not an accurate measurement to reflect weight change month to month, but it may be useful for looking at trends over time. All the overweight donkeys lost centimetres off their heart and belly girth measurements, with a total of 102 cm being lost between them.
This weight loss has been achieved through time and effort from the team at Axnoller. The donkeys were weighed and condition scored every month and each individual was assessed at that time. Fine adjustments were made to the group's haylage and grazing, and the donkeys were maintained predominantly on barley straw. Sometimes overweight donkeys were kept back off grazing whilst the rest of the group were allowed to graze it down, this technique was also employed with haylage.
Sophie, one of the vets, kept a watchful eye over the group to make sure no donkeys were losing too much weight and that they remained in good health.