welfare

Donkeys and Humans – how the use of donkeys as Livestock Units on Agriculture Schemes in Ireland potentially influences government-NGO interactions

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Date presented: 
Monday 7 May 2018
Abstract

Background
In many parts of the developing world, donkeys are kept as working animals and used primarily for transport (of goods and people) and agricultural activities (such as ploughing). In these regions, donkeys are of particular value due to their low purchasing price, ease of management and efficiency of work output. Similarly in the past in Ireland, donkeys proved to have innumerable uses, being capable of surviving and working on terrain that was unsuitable for horses, which latter, people could not afford in any case. Today, donkeys are mainly kept either as companion animals or as Livestock Units (LUs) registered on agricultural area aid schemes to aid in the collection of farm subsidies. In 2017 the Department of Agriculture (DAFM) who administer the subsidy scheme, also made an ex gratia payment of €120,000 to The Donkey Sanctuary to support its work in rescue/rehoming, in controlling indiscriminate breeding and in providing veterinary services to privately owned donkeys in Ireland.

Methods
Information was gathered concerning the mapping of areas eligible for subsidy payments, the numbers of applicants, the place of origin of applicants and the numbers of registered donkeys (and other equidae) these applicants used as LUs for the years 2012, 2013 and 2014. The value of payments made to applicants registering equidae as LUs during these years was also gathered. The Donkey Sanctuary provided information regarding their interactions with private-donkey owners including subsidy applicants – the collection of background information, the provision of veterinary services and the rehoming of donkeys to applicants who might register them as LUs.

Results
Subsidy year Total equine-applicant payments €uro value Horse/donkey Livestock Unit numbers Total equine Livestock Unit numbers
2010 € 4,030,377 10480
2011 € 6,214,130 18447
horses donkeys
2012 € 2,374,996 4546 2222 6768
2013 € 2,284,832 3564 2593 6157
2014 € 2,305,650 2606 2544 5150

Table 1. €uro value of ANC equine-applicant payments and the numbers of equines registered as Livestock Units (LUs) on ANC during the years 2010 to 2014

In the first 11 months of 2017, The Donkey Sanctuary provided donkey welfare improvement services to 176 owners of 700 private donkeys including circa 90 castrations, 450 farriery, 50 dental treatments, 130 identification and 60 husbandry including nutritional advice. They rehomed approximately 40 donkeys to subsidy applicants who might use them as LUs. The detail will be presented.

Conclusion
DAFM administer an agriculture subsidy scheme which permits the use of donkeys as Livestock Units but does not have an ostensible animal welfare function; never-the-less they make ex gratia animal welfare payments to NGOs such as The Donkey Sanctuary in support of services targeted at the owners of private donkeys. This provides an opportunity for government and NGOs to engage in such a way that public monies might be better used to support animal welfare improvements.

Monitoring herd health in donkeys using welfare assessment and clinical records

Citation

Alexandra K. Thiemann, Karen Rickards. Monitoring herd health in donkeys using welfare assessment and clinical records. Presented at 14th International Conference Equitation Science. (21 September - 24 September 2018). Rome, Italy. 63.

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Date presented: 
Saturday 22 September 2018
Abstract

The Donkey Sanctuary (DS) is an equine charity whose mission is to “transform the quality of life for donkeys, mules and the people that depend upon them worldwide”. In the UK, The DS cares for over 2000 donkeys on a number of farms varying in size from 250-580 animals. The farms aim to rehome up to 10% of their herd annually to guardian (private) homes or donkey assisted therapy centres. The farms also provide a show case for our work to visiting professionals and the public. Welfare of the donkeys on farms is critical to the credibility of the Donkey Sanctuary. Using welfare-based criteria alongside health records has enabled the teams to pro-actively monitor donkey welfare, refine management practices, re-direct budgets and track progress. Since 2017, the DS has been using the stage 1 AWIN (Animal Welfare Indicators), which are animal and resource based measures. AWIN is used on a quarterly basis on all farms to evaluate the following AWIN criteria: Appropriate nutrition (body condition score BCS), Absence of injuries (lameness, joint swelling, skin change, prolapse), Absence of disease (hair coat, faecal staining, ocular/nasal discharge, abnormal breathing, cheek teeth palpation), Absence of Pain (hoof neglect, lameness, hot branding), and Human-Animal Relationship (avoidance behaviours, tail tuck). The donkeys chosen are a random 10% at each visit using a named list of donkeys. This data is evaluated alongside information collected from a computer based Animal Management System, where vets input clinical conditions in pre-determined categories to monitor physical health - the main ones aligned are BCS, lameness, colic, hyperlipaemia, sarcoid, eye disease, and mortality rate. Over 1 year at 1 farm with 580 donkeys: AWIN showed (i) loss of weight control over summer with total animals BCS >4 (scale 1-5) increasing from 13% in January to 31% in September, (ii) lameness peaking on turnout (from 6-15% herd), (iii) skin disease (relating to lice burden) decreasing from 32% (winter) to 7 % summer, (iv) hoof neglect (thrush, abscesses) remaining high all year at >50%, (v) avoidance behaviours constant at about 12%- relating to new animals arriving and calm animals leaving. Data is recorded in Excel, and presented graphically and by written documentation.
Quarterly meetings with the farm manager and staff enable timely feedback.
Welfare can be benchmarked across farms and improvements aimed for. AWIN is validated and straightforward to use.

Lay person message: Traditional herd health monitoring is based on veterinary morbidity/ mortality figures using historical data from computerised records. The Donkey Sanctuary has responsibility for a large number of rescue and rehomed donkeys on farms whose welfare is high priority. The DS has introduced a validated welfare assessment tool to be used four times a year, to monitor animal and resource based measures of welfare (AWIN). This allows information to captured in real time rather than retrospectively and adverse welfare can be identified. Using this tool allows evidence based management changes to be made.

Proceedings
Number of pages: 
63
Publisher: 
Pisa University Press

The development of guidelines to improve dairy donkey management and welfare

Citation

Francesca Dai, Emanueala Dalla Costa, Faith A. Burden, Andrew Judge, Michela Minero. September 2018. The development of guidelines to improve dairy donkey management and welfare. Italian Journal of Animal Science.

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Publication date: 
11 September 2018
Abstract

Donkey milk is a valuable product for babies suffering from multiple-allergies and cosmetic production; therefore, new dairy donkey farms are opening around Europe. Little information is available for farmers on sustainable production of donkey milk, including animal welfare, milk production, and processing. Targeted dissemination of information on appropriate animal management would assist dairy donkey farmers in preventing welfare problems. This research project aims to develop guidelines on good practice principles for sustainable donkey milk production. Different steps were followed to develop the guidelines:
1. identification of key issues for dairy donkey welfare, analysing the results of previous project and the available scientific literature;
2. systematic review research to select promising solutions for each issue included in the guidelines;
3. stakeholder consultation, in order to increase scientific soundness and to enhance their acceptability throughout the sector;
4. guidelines drafting and revisions by stakeholders;
5. guidelines launch.
The guidelines ‘Dairy donkeys: good practice principles for sustainable donkey milk production’ were launched in December 2017. They include suggestions derived from scientific literature and/or reported by internationally recognised experts. The guidelines provide clear and helpful advice on good animal management practices for anyone interested in donkey milk production. They comprise the following chapters: ‘Responsibilities’, ‘Feed and water’, ‘Housing and Management’, ‘Donkey health care’, ‘Humane killing’, ‘Appropriate behaviour’, and ‘Milking procedures’. The guidelines, translated in different languages (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Greek and Chinese Mandarin) are freely available online.
The guidelines “Dairy donkeys: good practice principles for sustainable donkey milk production” are freely available online in six languages
The guidelines provide clear and helpful advice on good animal management practices for anyone interested in donkey milk production
The guidelines include suggestions derived from scientific literature and/or reported by internationally recognised experts

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Shelter-seeking behaviour in domestic donkeys and horses in a temperate climate

Citation

Britta Osthaus, Leanne Proops, Sarah Long, Nikki Bell, Faith A. Burden. July 2018. Shelter-seeking behaviour in domestic donkeys and horses in a temperate climate. Presented at 52nd Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology. 58.

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Date presented: 
Tuesday 31 July 2018
Abstract

Donkeys and horses differ substantially in their evolutionary history, physiology, behaviour and husbandry needs. Donkeys are often kept in climates that are colder and wetter than those they are adapted to and therefore may suffer impaired welfare unless sufficient protection from the elements is provided. We compared the shelter-seeking behaviours of donkeys and horses in relation to temperature, precipitation, wind speed and insect density. Our study collected 13,612 day-time data points (location of each animal, their activity such as feeding, resting, moving, etc., and insect-related behaviours) from 75 donkeys and 65 horses (unclipped and un-rugged) with free access to man-made and natural shelters between September 2015 and December 2016 in the South-West of the UK. Each animal was observed at least once a week, with an average of 65 observations per individual overall. Even though the UK climate is quite mild (1 to 33 degrees Celsius in our sample), the preliminary results showed clear differences in the shelter seeking behaviour between donkeys and horses. Overall donkeys were observed far more often inside their shelters than horses (χ2(1)=1,783.1, P<0.001). They particularly sought shelter when it was raining: there was a 54.4%-point increase (35 to 89.4%) in the proportions of donkeys sheltering in rainy conditions, in comparison to a 14.5%-point increase in horses (9.6 to 24.1%). Results of binary logistic regressions indicated that there was a significant association between species, precipitation and shelter-seeking behaviour (χ2(3)=2,750.5, P<0.001). Horses sought shelter more frequently when it got hotter, whereas donkeys sought shelter more often in colder weather (χ2(3)=2,667.3, P<0.001). The wind speed (range 0 to 8 m/s – calm to moderate breeze) had an effect on location choice, and this again differed significantly between donkeys and horses (χ2(3)=1,946.5, P<0.001). In a moderate breeze, donkeys tended to seek shelter whereas horses moved outside. The insect-related behaviours were closely related to temperature and wind speeds. The donkeys’ shelter-seeking behaviour strongly suggests that in temperate climates they should always have access to shelters that provide sufficient protection from the environment.

Proceedings
Number of pages: 
58
ISBN (13-digit): 
978-90-8686-322-8
Publication date: 
18 July 2018

Hair coat properties of donkeys, mules and horses in a temperate climate

Citation

Britta Osthaus, Leanne Proops, Sarah Long, Nikki Bell, Kristin Hayday, Faith A. Burden. April 2018. Hair coat properties of donkeys, mules and horses in a temperate climate. Equine Veterinary Journal. 50:3. 339-342.

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Publication details
Publication date: 
6 April 2018
Volume: 
50
Issue: 
3
Page numbers: 
339-342
DOI number: 
10.1111/evj.12775
Abstract

Background: There are clear differences between donkeys and horses in their evolutionary history, physiology, behaviour and husbandry needs.
Donkeys are often kept in climates that they are not adapted to and as such may suffer impaired welfare unless protection from the elements is
provided.
Objectives: To compare some of the hair coat properties of donkeys, mules and horses living outside, throughout the year, in the temperate climate of
the UK.
Study design: Longitudinal study.
Methods: Hair samples were taken from 42 animals: 18 donkeys (4 females, 14 males), 16 horses (6 females, 10 males) and eight mules (5 females, 3
males), in March, June, September and December. The weight, length and width of hair were measured, across the four seasons, as indicators of the
hair coat insulation properties.
Results: Donkeys’ hair coats do not significantly differ across the seasons. All three measurements of the insulation properties of the hair samples
indicate that donkeys do not grow a winter coat and that their hair coat was significantly lighter, shorter and thinner than that of horses and mules in
winter. In contrast, the hair coats of horses changed significantly between seasons, growing thicker in winter.
Main limitations: The measurements cover only a limited range of features that contribute to the thermoregulation of an animal. Further research is
needed to assess shelter preferences by behavioural measures, and absolute heat loss via thermoimaging.
Conclusions: Donkeys, and to a lesser extent mules, appear not to be as adapted to colder, wet climates as horses, and may therefore require
additional protection from the elements, such as access to a wind and waterproof shelter, in order for their welfare needs to be met.
First published online 20th October 2017.

Online references

Use of registered donkeys on the areas of natural constraint scheme in Ireland

Citation

Joseph A. Collins, Patrick Wall, Vivienne Duggan. June 2018. Use of registered donkeys on the areas of natural constraint scheme in Ireland. Vet Record.

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Publication date: 
22 June 2018
Journal: 
Vet Record
DOI number: 
10.1136/vr.104355
Abstract

Data concerning the numbers, locations and types of donkeys being officially registered (passported) in Ireland (32 counties) via horse passport issuing organisations were gathered. The numbers of agricultural area aid scheme (Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC)) applicants registering passported donkeys (as compared with horses) as livestock units (LUs), the numbers of donkeys they registered and the value of payments that thus accrued to the applicants are also reported for each of 26 counties for the years 2012 to 2014 inclusive. Equids have not been eligible for equivalent agricultural schemes in the six counties of Northern Ireland. Horse Sport Ireland registration data shows that two-thirds of almost 8000 donkey passport applicants over a 10-year period came from counties Galway and Mayo and that only one-third of donkeys registered were male. As per ANC figures reported here for 2014, there were over 2500 donkeys registered as LUs on ANC, at a payment value to their keepers (in the 26 counties) of almost €1.6M. Future iterations of the ANC scheme are currently under review with regard to limiting donkey eligibility criteria, for example, to females and neutered males. The future monetary value of (some) donkeys could be adversely affected by restrictions in eligibility and by the uncertainty engendered by the prospect of change with the potential for unintended consequences.

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Assessing quality of life and welfare of donkeys in the UK

Citation

Alexandra K. Thiemann, Elena Barrio, Karen Rickards, Anna Harrison. July 2018. Assessing quality of life and welfare of donkeys in the UK. In Practice. 40. 249-257.

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Publication date: 
12 July 2018
Journal: 
In Practice
Volume: 
40
Page numbers: 
249-257
DOI number: 
http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/inp.k2584
Abstract

The role of donkeys in the UK and Europe has changed over the past 40 years, and is still changing – these equids are primarily used as companions, but also for tourism, therapy and increasingly for milk production. When it comes to the end of their lives and issues surrounding equine end-of-life care, a recent study highlighted that many donkey owners rely on their vet to provide them with information on quality of life (QOL) assessment, geriatric care and euthanasia planning. This article aims to assist veterinary surgeons in assessing donkey welfare and helping owners decide how to improve QOL or whether an end-point has been reached and euthanasia is indicated.

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Preliminary investigation into relationships between donkey and horse skull morphology and brain morphology

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Date presented: 
Thursday 23 November 2017
Abstract

All horses and donkeys belong to the genus Equus but anatomical and behavioural differences exist among species. Equus caballus displays distinctive conformational attributes among breeds provisionally related to ganglion cell distribution and skull and brain morphology. Equus asinus shows less variation in skull shape, and little is known about brain organisation. The current research compared skull and brain morphology between horses and donkeys. Skulls of Equus caballus, primarily of Standardbred type (N=14) and Equus asinus (N=16), were obtained postmortem. All animals had been humanely euthanised for reasons unrelated to this study. Heads were sectioned sagitally along the midline and photographed for measurement of various skull structures using Image J software. Measurements included: skull index (SI)=zygomatic width*100/skull length; cranial index (CI)=cranial width*100/cranial length; nasal index (NI)=zygomatic width*100/nasal length; cranial profile index (CPI)=rectangular area bordered by an 80mm line from orbital notch and occiput; nasal profile index (NPI)= rectangular area bordered by 80mm line from orbital notch and tip of nasal bone; olfactory lobe area (OLA); OL pitch [angle between hard palate and the OL axis]; brain pitch [angle between longitudinal axis of the cerebral hemispheres and the hard palate]; and whorl location (WL) [distance of OL from the level of the forehead whorl]. A General Linear Model determined the main effect of species with Sidak’s multiple comparisons of species’ differences among the various measurements. Donkeys had shorter heads (cranial lengths) than horses (19.7±2.5 vs 23.6±1.4cm respectively; F1,23=51.49, P<0.0002). Donkeys also had smaller cranial widths (13±3.4cm; F1,17=15.91, P<0.001) and mandibular depths (24±2.6cm; F1,21=13.05, P<0.002) than horses (19±0.8 and 27.2±1.1cm, respectively). There was no species difference in SI, ZI, or NI (P>0.40), but donkeys tended to have a smaller CI than horses (F1,17=3.59, P<0.08). Similarly, donkeys had a smaller CPI than horses (F1,21=7.54, P<0.034), but there was no difference in NPI (F1,21=0.05, P>0.83). Donkeys also had a smaller OLA than horses (1.4±0.3 vs 2.3±1.3cm2 respectively; F1,13=4.96, P<0.05) although there was no difference in brain pitch (F1,23=0.69, P>0.43). The greatest difference was seen in WL, which corresponded to the level of the OL in horses, but was extremely rostral in donkeys (F1,21=24.29, P<0.0001). These results show clear differentiation in skull morphology between horses and donkeys which may be linked to behaviour. This may be useful in validating different approaches in the training and management of horses versus donkeys.

Lay person message: Horses demonstrate specific behaviours which may be associated with skull shape, although nothing is known about this relationship in donkeys. This pilot study has shown that donkeys have smaller brain cases and olfactory lobes than Standardbred horses. Donkeys’ facial whorls are located lower down the face while horses’ are in close proximity to the brain’s olfactory lobe. Clarifying differences between horses and donkeys is crucial to understanding species-specific behavioural responses and providing appropriate management and training practices.

A clinical survey on the prevalence and types of cheek teeth disorders present in 400 Zamorano-Leonés and 400 Mirandês donkeys (Equus asinus)

Citation

J. B. Rodrigues, Padraic M. Dixon, E. Bastos, F. San Roman, C. Viegas. November 2013. A clinical survey on the prevalence and types of cheek teeth disorders present in 400 Zamorano-Leonés and 400 Mirandês donkeys (Equus asinus). Veterinary Record. 173:23. 581.

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Publication details
Publication date: 
4 November 2013
Journal: 
Veterinary Record
Volume: 
173
Issue: 
23
Page numbers: 
581
Abstract

Dental disease is now recognised as a major but often unrecognised disorder of equids, including horses and donkeys. However, very few large clinical studies have documented the prevalence and type of dental disease present in different equid populations and no dental studies have been reported in Zamorano-Leonés or Mirandês donkeys, two endangered donkey breeds. Clinical and detailed oral examinations were performed in 400 Mirandês and 400 Zamorano-Leonés donkeys in Portugal and Spain. It was found that just 4.5 per cent had ever received any previous dental care. Cheek teeth (CT) disorders were present in 82.8 per cent of these donkeys, ranging from a prevalence of 29.6 per cent in the <2.5-year-old group to 100 per cent in the >25-year-old group. These CT disorders included enamel overgrowths (73.1 per cent prevalence but with just 6.3 per cent having associated soft tissue injuries), focal overgrowths (37.3 per cent), periodontal disease (23.5 per cent) and diastemata (19.9 per cent). Peripheral caries was present in 5.9 per cent of cases, but inexplicably, infundibular caries was very rare (1.3 per cent prevalence); this may have been due to their almost fully foraged diet. The high prevalence of enamel overgrowths in these donkeys, most which never received concentrates, also raises questions about the aetiology of this disorder. This very high prevalence of CT disorders, especially in older donkeys, was of great welfare concern in some cases and emphasises the need for routine dental care in these cases on welfare grounds and in order to help preserve these unique breeds.

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Working across Europe to improve donkey welfare

Citation

Alexandra K. Thiemann, Andy Foxcroft. August 2016. Working across Europe to improve donkey welfare. The Veterinary Record. 1796. 298-300.

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Publication details
Publication date: 
19 August 2016
Volume: 
1796
Page numbers: 
298-300
DOI number: 
10.1136/vr.i4112
Abstract

The UK public and veterinary profession often think of the equine charity sector as dealing with issues directly related to the UK equine population – overproduction, rehoming, shelter and welfare. However, the Donkey Sanctuary, like many UK-based equine charities, also works in Europe and further afield to try to address a much broader range of issues, as Alex Thiemann and Andy Foxcroft explain

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