Can Donkey Eat Horse Feed

Can Donkeys Eat Horse Feed? Is It Safe?

While donkeys can eat horse feed, it is likely too rich for their needs. Donkeys have the ability to extract more nutrients from food than horses and can thrive on roughages. Due to their smaller size and efficient digestive system, donkeys require fewer calories than horses. 

It’s important to note that low-calorie feeds are not equivalent to low-quality feeds as donkeys still need essential vitamins and minerals and are susceptible to mold, like horses. Both horse and donkey digestive systems require time to adjust to changes in their diets, so gradual changes are recommended. Donkeys may be more prone to obesity than horses, so it is important to closely monitor their body condition score and feed intake.

What Is Horse Feed Made Of?

Grasses, hay, and straw are the primary sources of nutrition for horses. Alfalfa hay is particularly enjoyed by horses due to its sweet taste. Owners of horses can supplement their horse’s diet with commercial feeds, especially if the horse is engaged in high-intensity activities. Horses that are lightly worked can get by with natural grazing and hay. 

Commercial feeds are formulated to provide additional vitamins and minerals to a horse’s diet. These feeds often contain cereal grains such as barley and oats, as well as by-products like beet pulp. Commercial feeds come in different varieties for various classes of horses, from high-performance rodeo horses to pregnant or lactating mares, growing ponies, and senior horses.

Feeding Donkeys: 4 Things you need to know

  1. Regardless of size, all donkeys receive mixed grass hay in the winter, which is a free choice. During summer, they have access to forage from the land. However, standard and miniature donkeys require feeding in slow-feeder hay bags. 
  2. Pasture-kept donkeys can be problematic if the pasture has high sugar and protein content.
  3. Once a month, offer the donkeys a kelp supplement and nutrient-rich herbs. I give around 1 cup per 3 donkeys. 
  4. Give access to Himalayan pink salt and plain salt.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Horse Feed To Donkeys?

  • Equids require minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and phosphate to perform important functions in their body systems. A typical horse feed provides sufficient mineral content, including iron for oxygen circulation, and calcium for strong teeth and bones. Other macro and micro minerals also play vital roles.
  • Vitamins, such as A, B, C and D, are essential for growth and development in mammals, and are typically added to horse feeds as their natural diet of forage grasses and hay lacks sufficient vitamin content. These vitamins promote healthy skin, cell growth, and boost the immune system.
  • Protein is the building block of the body and vital for growth and development. Horse feed must contain adequate levels of protein, which may differ based on the individual horse’s protein needs.
  • Fats are a good source of energy and aid in the digestion of fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin E. Soybean and corn oil are common sources of fat in horse feed.
  • Carbohydrates provide energy for the various activities of living organisms and can be found in horse feed in the form of simple and complex carbs. Horse feed mixtures can contain sources of simple and complex carbohydrates such as alfalfa, barley, oats, and beet pulp.

Can donkeys eat horse feed?

Donkeys have specific dietary needs that differ from those of horses. They require fewer calories and a higher fiber intake. While donkeys can have horse feed in limited amounts, it is not recommended as it may cause gastric ulcers in some donkeys. Donkeys should mainly consume good quality barley or oat straw and have restricted access to grass.

How Can I Feed Horse Feed To My Donkeys?

There are two main forms of commercial horse feed: textured and pellet. Textured feed is a loose form that allows horses and donkeys to browse and pick the parts they prefer.

Pelleted feed, on the other hand, is designed to provide all the necessary nutrition in a compact form, making it more difficult for picky eaters to only choose their favorite grains.

Both textured and pelleted feed can be served to donkeys, but be sure to provide them with a clean source of water for drinking and a salt block to meet their mineral requirements.

How Do Donkeys’ Nutritional Requirements Vary From Horses‘?

Donkeys have a highly adaptable diet and can consume a variety of vegetation, including shrubs, grasses, and weeds to obtain the necessary nutrients. In contrast, horses are more selective eaters and are more susceptible to colic when fed unusual foods.

Donkeys can thrive on a diet high in roughage as they are more efficient in digesting fibrous plant material. Although they need less nourishment than horses, they can easily gain weight and are at risk of overfeeding and founder if their diet is not monitored closely.

Due to their efficient metabolic processes, donkeys are known as easy keepers. It is essential to be mindful of their diet and feeding habits to ensure they maintain a healthy weight and avoid health issues.

Good Forage Is Essential

Donkeys have a different digestive system compared to ruminants such as goats, deer, and cattle. They are able to digest lower quality forage than horses, which means highly fertilized, luxurious hay or legume hay such as alfalfa should be avoided. Instead, donkeys thrive on mixed grass pasture and natural mixed grass hay. It’s important to make sure that hay labeled as “cattle quality” is not moldy or contains high concentrations of Johnson grass, which can be toxic to equines.

Mules, which are half donkey and half horse, have similar feeding requirements as donkeys, but may have slightly higher protein requirements and need for more luxurious hay. Donkeys are grazers and prefer to eat small amounts throughout the day. To slow down consumption and keep them active, using a hay net is recommended.

If there is a hay shortage, packaged forage such as Timothy grass pellets and beet pulp can be used to supplement up to 50% of the donkey’s hay and grass requirements. When choosing packaged forage, it’s important to look for products that are low in protein and high in fiber. Donkeys and some mules are prone to being overweight, and too much rich pasture, hay, or alfalfa can lead to laminitis.

What should not be fed to donkeys?

Donkeys with dental issues should not be fed straw or hay as it requires significant chewing. Instead, they should be given chaff, chop, or grass pellets to prevent choking. Additionally, donkeys should not consume black walnut or red maple as they are toxic to them.

What is the donkey diet?

Donkeys require a diet that is high in fiber and low in protein, sugars, starch/carbohydrates, and calories. Their diet should consist primarily of good quality barley or oat straw and have limited access to grass. Other food items, such as bread, molasses, sugar beet, carrots, apples, pears, turnips, and swedes can be mixed with their feed.

Can donkeys go without food and water?

Donkeys can survive up to three days without water, but clean water should always be provided to them. It is best not to allow them to go without food for an extended period of time.

What do donkeys need to eat?

Donkeys primarily eat barley straw, hay, and grass. They are herbivores and have a unique digestive system that allows them to survive in harsh conditions. Their dietary needs should be carefully considered and met to maintain their health and well-being.

Final words

Despite belonging to the same equine family, horses and donkeys have different nutritional needs and requirements. Donkeys can easily become overweight if given too many calories and protein. Therefore, it’s important for donkey owners to pay close attention to their donkey’s diet and health. 

Before making any changes to their feed, it’s recommended to consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist. They can help develop the best diet plan for the donkey based on its specific characteristics, such as size, weight, health, and workload.

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