In my role as General Farms Manager (UK) I visit the farms in Devon, Dorset and Derbyshire on a regular basis and pass on good ideas from one Manager to another.
Last month I had the opportunity to visit our two sites in Spain with Andrew Judge, European Operations Manager.
Firstly, my visit took me to Fuente de Piedra and Spain was delivered some lovely warm weather for my visit. Fuente is open to the public and is situated about one and a half hours drive north of Malaga.
My pictures show that there is some grass and the olive trees are thriving in the new arrivals paddocks (which are not used that often). However, the other paddocks are eaten to dust and all forage is provided by the staff - straw and hay are readily available.
There are small paddocks each with a stable area that has a straw bed, post and rail fencing and some lovely signage for visitors to learn about the different donkeys.
A productive vegetable patch has been created by volunteers alongside local school groups who are encouraged to maintain it, they have even made a scarecrow!
So far this year 12 school visits of 50 children per visit and 40 coaches of holiday makers have been to the farm. They are encouraged to buy from the shop or adopt a donkey or make a donation into the wishing well.
Quite a few donkeys were clipped but not in the same way as the UK, the top of body is clipped, and the belly and legs left protected. Danny explained that this was the fashion in Spain. The areas clipped are where the harness or saddle sits, and gets very sweaty, but they leave the bellies on to protect them when they lie down at night on the rough ground and stalky grass.
I asked about the “tiers” clipped into the tail – apparently this was a trade mark of the groom who clipped them - please can the UK grooms refrain from starting a craze over here!
An area has been converted into an interesting museum; there are old harnesses and bridles and a very old donkey drawn bruising board embedded with flints – this board gets dragged over grain to bruise it creating rolled oats or rolled barley for feeding to livestock (whole grain is indigestible for them).
The centre of the farm has an attractive wishing well and wall murals which have been done by a volunteer.
The next day we travelled to Doña Rosa which is further north, not far from Seville, where Juan was very proud of the farm.
He explained that he has ongoing problems with weight management; as when it rains the forage grows up practically overnight and the donkeys quickly start to gain weight.
The donkeys and mules here are in paradise compared with Fuente as there is so much more space and enrichment in the way of freedom of choice and movement at Doña Rosa.
The olive trees provide shade and a change of vegetation. The barns are light and airy with covered feeding areas so that they have shade from the sun when eating.
It was lovely to have the opportunity to see the farms in Spain and the contented donkeys who live there.