donkey milk

Italian donkey milk farms: a snapshot of welfare conditions


Francesca Dai, Giulia Segati, Emmanuela Dalla Costa, Faith A. Burden, Andrew Judge, Michela Minero. 21 October 2019. Italian donkey milk farms: a snapshot of welfare conditions. Poster presented at European Congress of Animal Welfare and Behavioural Medicine.

Presentation details
Date presented: 
Monday 21 October 2019

Donkey milk is precious for paediatric patients suffering from multiple-allergies and this research aims to investigate welfare of donkeys used to produce milk in Italy.

Twelve farms were visited between June and September 2015 by two female assessors, aged 23 - 31 years. The welfare assessment was conducted on a representative sample of animals, using the AWIN welfare assessment protocol for donkeys, comprising 22 animal based indicators. A total of 257 donkeys (females = 131; pregnant females = 73 gelding = 1; stallions = 52) of different breeds, aged between one and 360 months (mean = 65.70 ± 61.92) were assessed. Data was collected using ODK application and analysed with IBM SPSS Statistic 23. The proportion of donkeys with different scores for each welfare indicator was calculated.

On the average, the assessed donkeys enjoyed good welfare status. Most of the donkeys (80.2%) showed a good nutritional status (BCS = 3); the others tended to be thin (12.8% with BCS = 2) rather than fat (6.2% with BCS = 4). The main issue highlighted was hoof care: 18.7% of the donkeys showed signs of neglect. All the donkeys could express normal behaviour and interact with conspecifics. Most of the donkeys showed positive reactions to human-animal relationship tests; 20.9% donkeys were not used to be restrained with a head-collar, thus it was not possible to assess them.

Even though no major welfare issues were found, some management practices require consideration. Education of farmers could prove useful to improve dairy donkey welfare.

Ensuring the welfare of the farmed donkey for the production of milk: an analysis of the legislation


Francesca Dai, Giulia Segati, Emanueala Dalla Costa, Faith A. Burden, Andrew Judge, E. Canali, Michela Minero. April 2017. Ensuring the welfare of the farmed donkey for the production of milk: an analysis of the legislation. Large Animal Review. 23. 59-64.

Publication details
Publication date: 
2 April 2017
Large Animal Review
Page numbers: 

Donkey’s milk is a valuable product for paediatric patients with
allergy to cow milk proteins. As the donkey milk qualifies as
a product intended primarily for consumers with special needs,
it should be of good quality and therefore the donkeys must
enjoy good health and welfare.
To better understand how dairy donkeys’ welfare is assured around
Europe, an analysis of EU, Italian and Regional Legislation about
welfare of donkeys used to produce milk was conducted.
According to 98/58/EC Directive, donkeys kept for milk/meat
production should be considered as farm animals. This Directive,
without being species-specific, lays down minimum
standards for the protection of animals bred or kept for farming
European Regulation 37/2010 and Italian Dlgs 193/2006 report
the rules on the use of veterinary drugs. A veterinarian must
prescribe pharmacologically active substances and commend
an appropriate withdrawal period to ensure that food derived
from treated animals does not contain residues harmful to consumers.
No specific information regarding drugs for dairy
donkeys is reported and it is unclear what happens in reality
when a lactating jenny needs treatment.
Three Italian Regions (Piemonte, Emilia Romagna and Veneto)
have specific regulations about donkey milk production. The
“D.D. 461 17/06/2013”, “Circolare 17 05/10/2005” and “ALLEGATO
A Dgr 513 03/04/2012” report requirements for milk production
to guarantee adequate food safety and generically suggest
that donkeys should be kept in good welfare conditions.
In addition, Italian guidelines “Codice per la Tutela e la Gestione
degli Equidi” provides essential criteria for proper management
of equines, according to good practices and ethical behaviour;
they give suggestions about nutrition and water provision, stable
management, training, identification documents, transport,
euthanasia, education of farmers.
Our work highlights that protecting welfare of donkeys used
to produce milk may be affected by a lack of specific legislation.
As a first step, the development of specific guidelines would
help to improve their welfare.

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