Andy told me the tale of Cameron's birth which I felt shows how lucky we are to have someone of Andy's experience on our team. Without his help this gorgeous foal and her mum could have died.
Both the Vet and Andy Cockburn, Farm Manager at Brookfield Farm, felt that the time was close for Cameron to give birth; her udder was full of milk and the position of the foal had changed.
Andy, who previously worked at a horse racing stud delivering top class race horse foals, had been doing night checks for a few days but he was convinced that tonight was the night. Andy lives on site which is invaluable at times like these.
At the 6.00am check, Andy crept over to the stable trying not to make too much noise and Cameron came to the stable door giving Andy a little low "hu-hu-hu" of recognition, and Andy thought how lovely this was, that she trusted him at this difficult time, and was saying hello.
Actually she was saying "...please help me, I'm in difficulty".
She turned away and showed Andy that the foal was attempting to enter this world but had one front leg and his head presented with the other front leg caught facing the wrong way, blocking the contraction and stopping the delivery from happening. The correct position is with both front legs and the head forwards in a "diving" sort of position. Andy knew there was no time to spare or the foal would die.
He entered the stable and reassured Cameron with a little scratch on her withers. She seemed to know that he could help her and lay down on the straw bed waiting for the next contraction. Working with nature, Andy gently and skilfully pushed the foal back into the birth canal until he could reach the folded back leg and repositioned it so that the front legs were either side of the head in the classic "diving" position, all the time he was muttering words of encouragement to the nearly exhausted mother-to-be. Together they waited for the next contraction and with one final effort the enormous, beautiful chocolate coloured colt was born.
Such an emotional time for Andy and for Cameron who is a fantastic mum. She was exhausted and lay down for almost an hour. She knew that she needed to stand so that the foal could suckle and drink the important colostrum (the first milk that contains antibodies which are vital to the foal's well-being) and the mother and child bonding process begins.
Both mother and foal are doing well, thanks to Andy. The name for this chap hasn't been decided yet, but my vote is for him to be called Andy after the man who helped him into the world.
Cameron and three other donkeys called Donkey Oaty, Gwyneth and Angelina were rescued from Somerset in April 2014. They were in poor condition and spent some time at the Belle Vue Veterinary Clinic until they were fit to travel to our New Arrivals unit in Sidmouth.
Initially Cameron was not known to be in foal and once this had been established she was moved to Brookfield Farm where she could live with the other expectant mums that had been relinquished to us in “the family way”. This works very well as the mothers keep each other company during the pregnancy, which can be between 11 and 13 months, and then the foals can play together and at around six months old will get weaned together.
No breeding policy
The Donkey Sanctuary has a no breeding policy so any foals born are born to mares who were already in foal when they were taken in or rescued.