This month’s blog has been written by Kaz, one of the team of veterinary surgeons.
Most of the time vets dread the phone ringing when it’s their night on call, however there are occasions when you can be pleased it is your turn to answer the phone with ‘…Hello, Donkey Sanctuary Emergencies’. This was my experience on the 17 February. Having finished work for the day I was heading home thinking of the topping for my pancakes that evening, it being Shrove Tuesday, when the phone rang. My heart sank slightly, although when I heard the words of the groom on the other end announce, “Tiny’s just had her foal”, the sinking feeling started to reverse! It is a universal truth that no matter how long you’ve been in the profession or how many newborn animals you see, they are still amazing, every time.
Tiny was brought into our New Arrivals Unit last year, known to be in foal, although we had no information on when she conceived or when the foal was due.
A donkey’s gestation length can vary from 11-14 months so a bit of guesswork is always involved even when you know the conception date! Tiny had been showing signs of being near to foaling for a while so the staff had been keeping an extra special eye on her to make sure there were no problems.
She managed to give birth at 6pm, just before the groom was due to check her so he arrived as the foal was still attempting to get free from the placenta. I arrived 10 minutes later just as the foal had started to stand up, a gorgeous sight to see him wobbling about in the straw, trying to figure out how to co-ordinate all 4 legs at the same time!
Tiny was a very good new mum, licking her baby to dry him off and standing patiently while he attempted to find her teats and start suckling. This was achieved at 7.20pm, and the blood test the next day showed the foal had ingested a healthy amount of colostrum, filled with all the natural maternal antibodies to give him a good start in life.
After a few hours we left Tiny and her foal curled up happily in the straw, myself freezing cold and having missed my pancakes, but knowing there is nowhere else I would have rather been that evening!
Tiny and her foal are due to move out of the Reception Unit in a few weeks and will be living at the main Sanctuary, available to see during special visiting hours so keep an eye on the website for more details coming soon…