Italy

The development of guidelines to improve dairy donkey management and welfare

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
  • 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.

Volume
18
Issue
1
Start page
189
End page
193
Publication date

Management practices and milk production in dairy donkey farms distributed over the Italian territory

Limited information is available about the actual management characteristics of dairy donkeys in Southern Europe. The aim of the present study is to describe animal management of dairy donkey farms in Italy. Twelve farmers were asked to answer a questionnaire on the management of their animals and their farms distributed over the Italian territory. Six farms grouped their animals in paddocks according to the production characteristics (e.g. lactating, dry, stallions); three farms housed the stallions in single boxes. Most of the visited farms were family run and the number of animals cared for by a single person varied from five to 103 animals. All the farms but one performed mechanical milking with a modified goat milkmaid.Vaccinations were regularly performed only on two farms. All the foals received colostrum and suckled from their own mothers. Foals were nursed by their mother until 6-12 months old. During the separation period before milking, foals were usually (83%) housed in paddocks near their mothers with the possibility of visual and/or tactile contact, however such separations could be for up to 12 hours (17%). Even though the assessed sample was small, considerable differences were seen between farms, likely due to lack of uniform information available for the farmers. The adoption of scientific based procedures is suggested in order to improve both animal welfare and milk quality.

Volume
40
Issue
2
Start page
1
End page
4
Publication date
Country

Epidemiologic analysis of a sarcoid outbreak involving 12 of 111 donkeys in Northern Italy

Equine sarcoids develop upon bovine papillomavirus type 1 or 2 (BPV1, BPV2) infection in conjunction with trauma and represent the most common tumour disease in horses and other equids, including donkeys. In face of a sarcoid outbreak involving 12 of 111 donkeys and mules at the ‘Rifugio degli Asinelli’, a subsidiary charity organization of The Donkey Sanctuary, non-invasively collected sample material including crusts, dandruff, swabs and hair roots was collected from sarcoid-affected and 26 healthy donkeys, as well as dandruff from a grooming kit and tabanids caught from or in the vicinity of sarcoid patients. In addition five previously collected sarcoids stored in formalin were provided.

DNA isolated from collected material was tested for the presence of the BPV1/2 E5 oncogene using PCR. Positive samples were further analysed by E2/E4 and LCR PCR and amplicon sequencing to determine a possible common source of infection via comparative alignment of intralesional BPV1/2 gene variants. IC/PCR was used to assess sample aliquots for the presence of BPV1/2 virions, and IHC to analyse five tumours for BPV1 E5 and L1 protein expression.

All sarcoid-affected donkeys, two of 55 tabanids and dandruff from a curry comb tested positive for BPV1/2 E5, yet negative by IC/PCR. Healthy animals were BPV1/2-free. IHC revealed different levels of intralesional E5 and L1 expression. A series of BPV1 E5, E2, and LCR variants and BPV2 E5 were detected from donkeys, indicating that they had accidently developed sarcoids at about the same time rather than having acquired disease from each other.

Volume
196
Start page
85
End page
92
Publication date
Country

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

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 purposes.

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.

Volume
23
End page
64
Publication date
Country

Effects of management practices on the welfare of dairy donkeys and risk factors associated with signs of hoof neglect

This Research Paper aimed to investigate donkey welfare in dairy husbandry systems and to identify the potential factors affecting it at animal level. In 2015, twelve dairy donkey farms (19–170 donkeys per farm, mean = 55 ± 48), distributed throughout Italy, were visited. On each farm, the Animal Welfare Indicators (AWIN) welfare assessment protocol for donkeys was used by two trained assessors to evaluate the welfare of animals for a total of 257 donkeys assessed. The protocol includes animal-based indicators that were entered in a digitalised system. Prevalence of different scores at individual, farm and category level were calculated. Farmers were asked to fill out a questionnaire including information regarding the management of donkeys and their final destination. Answers to the questionnaire were then considered as effects in the risk factor analysis whereas the scores of the animal-based indicators were considered as response variables. Most of the donkeys (80·2%) enjoyed a good nutritional status (BCS = 3). 18·7% of donkeys showed signs of hoof neglect such as overgrowth and/or incorrect trimming (Min = 0% Max = 54·5%). Belonging to a given farm or production group influenced many of the welfare indicators. The absence of pasture affected the likelihood of having skin lesions, alopecia, low BCS scores and a less positive emotional state. Lack of routine veterinary visits (P < 0·001) and having neglected hooves (P < 0·001) affected the likelihood of being thin (BCS < 3). Belonging to specific production groups, lack of access to pasture and showing an avoidance reaction to an approaching human (AD) resulted in risk factors associated with a higher prevalence of signs of hoof neglect. Our results support the idea that lack of knowledge of proper donkey care among owners was behind many welfare issues found.

Published online ahead of print.

Publication date
Country

Clinical trial on the efficacy of moxidectin oral gel formulation on donkeys naturally infected by cyathostominae

Laura Pacifico
F. Buono
Presentation date

Donkeys and horses share several parasites including the small strongyles, Cyathostominae. Moxidectin (MOX), a compound of macrocyclic lactones, has a wide range of ecto and endoparasitic activity in many species. For horses, MOX is available as oral gel formulation that provides excellent and long-lasting efficacy against nematodes such as large and small strongyles. There is a paucity of data available on the efficacy of anthelmintics used in donkeys (Veneziano et al., 2011). Therapeutics, such as antiparasitic compounds, are often administered to donkeys on the basis of dosage and intervals recommended for horses, because very few drugs have donkey-specific label indications (Grosenbaugh et al., 2011). The objective of the present study was to evaluate the field efficacy and Egg Reappearance Period (ERP) of MOX oral gel up to 84 days at horse dose against natural infection of Cyathostominae in donkeys.

Country
Published as conference proceedings

Epidemiologic and molecular analysis of sarcoid cases in a herd of donkeys in Northern Italy

Status
Applicant(s)
Collaborator(s)
Start date
End date
Country
Methodology

Samples collected in 2011 and 2012 (skin scurf, swabs, tumour material, hair roots, insect tissue) from affected (n=13), possibly affected (n=5) and unaffected (n=26) donkeys, PCR sequencing to isolate BPV DNA. 20 tabanid flies collected from locality for dissection and further processing including DNA purification, homogenization or mounting on slides.

Aims

To investigate: 1.1) the link between current sarcoid cases and BPV -1/2 1.2) if clinically healthy animals are infected with the virus 1.3) using viral sequence analysis, to investigate if the disease is transmitted between animals 1.4) if the caseload constitutes an outbreak and constitutes a true epidemic and can a viral source be identified 2.1) can viral DNA and/or virus like structures be detected in affected individuals 2.2) do lesion-derived BPV DNA isolates harbour the same genetic variants 2.3) whether scurf obtained from BPV -positive animals as well as grooming kits harbour virion-like structures/virions 2.4) whether flying insects; particularly tabanid flies, feeding on lesions harbour virion-like structures/virions 2.5) analyse sarcoid epidermis for the presence of viral protein and virion-like structures.

Results

1) Viral DNA detected in vast majority of samples from affected donkeys 2) Viral DNA also found in old dandruff from affected grooming brush. 3) No viral DNA found in material from unaffected samples 4) 17 of 20 tabanid samples tested negative for BPV1/BPV2 DNA 5) Gene sequencing is still in progress, initial results show E5 sequences are not identical but vary by one or more silent or non-synonymous point mutations. 6) Variants of BPV1 and BPV2 type E5 detected. 7) So far there is evidence of a productive BPV 1/BPV2 infection having occurred in a subset of investigated material.

Conclusions

Viral infection demonstrated for all tumour bearing individuals on a DNA level, adding evidence to the widely accepted concept that BPV1/2 is chiefly involved in onset and progression of sarcoids in equids. Failure to trace viral genome in some affected samples is likely to be due to low viral copy numbers escaping detection. Analysis of 5 tumours excised for clinical reasons showed intralesional expression of major oncogene E5 providing further evidence for its active role in cell transformation. Intralesional expression of major capsid protein L1 is suggestive of production infection ie assembly of infectious virion, in these lesions. Two tabanids scoring positive for BPV DNA failed to yield positive results from PCR, providing no evidence for tabanids transferring infection. However, low sample numbers require further analyses to clarify this. Sequencing to date yielded variations indicative that the outbreak is more accidental rather than from one single common source. This concept is strengthened by the fact that the caseload has dropped since 2011. The mode(s) of transmission still remain unknown, and pending further research. In lieu of this spatial separation of sarcoid bearing donkeys and mules is recommended as a prophylactic.

Donkey welfare standards on milk/meat farms in Italy

Status
Applicant(s)
Start date
End date
Country
Methodology

Literature review, questionnaires and interviews, on-farm welfare assessments, milk analysis (chemistry and microbiology) and statistical analysis of all data.

Aims
  1. Research: understand the key requirements of donkey milk, its demand on a demographic basis and if methods to reduce bacteria are adopted.
  2. Research: understand European Regulation and local animal welfare legislation to determine how the donkey is categorised - domestic or agricultural animal.
  3. Investigation: gather data about the husbandry of donkey stallions, both as studs and those surplus to breeding. Collect information regarding their final destination (pet, work, meat production). As for male donkeys intended for meat production, farming methods and distances travelled to reach slaughter will be investigated.
  4. Investigation: donkey welfare assessment on dairy farms will be conducted through direct collection of animal-based indicators developed within the AWIN (Animal Welfare Indicators) project.
  5. Investigation: to undertake independent bacteriological testing of milk samples from farms in Italy to determine the levels and species of bacteria present.
  6. Communications: as a deliverable and extended report of principal results of analysis, raw databases, participation (or planning for participation) to an International Scientific Congress to disseminate results.
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