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close this bookBetter Farming Series 14 - Farming with Animal Power (FAO - INADES, 1977, 57 p.)
close this folderWorking animals
Open this folder and view contentsOxen
View the documentDonkeys
View the documentHorses
View the documentMules
View the documentCamels


A donkey is much like a horse. It is smaller and not so strong. It has a big head with big ears. Its feet are slender but firm. The leg ends in a single hoof.

The donkey is not as strong as the ox. It is useful for light work such as harrowing, hoeing and sowing. Two donkeys harnessed side by side can do ploughing in light soils.

The donkey is very useful for transport. It walks easily over rough tracks.

A donkey costs much less than an ox. It is seldom ill and it is easy to feed and look after.

Choosing a donkey for farm work

Like oxen, a working donkey must:

· be in good health;
· have strong feet;
· have hard hoofs.

A donkey can be trained from the age of 18 months.

Feeding donkeys

Donkeys eat grass and herbage.

A donkey's stomach has only one gut; it has no rumen.

Donkeys are not ruminants.

A donkey needs several hours at pasture and some hay during the night. When a donkey is working, give a feed supplement such as 1 kilogramme of crushed millet or sorghum mixed with rice bran.

A donkey likes very clean water to drink. But do not let it drink at once after working when it is hot and sweating.

If a donkey is used to carry water, let it drink while at the spring.

Do not leave a donkey at large, but keep it in a paddock {see Booklet No. 8, page 32), or tie it with a long rope to a post so that it cannot damage the crops.

Housing donkeys

Make a shelter for the donkeys as you did for the oxen.

Build a wall on the side where the wind blows most often.
The shelter will protect the donkeys from wind and rain.

Put straw on the floor. The donkeys will rest better, and there will be manure for the fields.

A donkey needs an area 3 metres long by 1.75 metres wide.

For the donkey's feed supplement, make a feed trough from a hollowed tree trunk, or from a barrel cut in half. Fix the trough to the wall so that the donkey cannot knock it over.

For the hay make a rack (a kind of ladder made of bamboo).

Then the hay will not get mixed with the manure and will always be clean.

The shelter for donkeys and horses is called a stable.

Looking after donkeys

To prevent diseases, brush the donkey's coat every day with a sort of metal brush

A curry- comb

Like that, your donkey will always be clean.

· Pests: ticks

Like oxen, donkeys may have ticks.

Kill them with paraffin or mineral oil. They can also be cut out. Ticks may also be found on the ears. Do not forget to deal with them.

· Diseases

Donkeys are resistant to diseases except sleeping sickness (trypanosomiasis).

The animal husbandry services have medicaments for treating this illness, and others to prevent the animals falling ill.

There are no donkeys in forest regions because of the sleeping sickness.

Donkeys at work

· Carrying loads

Put a pack- saddle on the donkey's back.

A pack- saddle is made of

· two pads placed on the donkey's back;
· a piece of leather or plaited rope called a back- strap which is fixed to the pads;
· thongs of leather or rope called girths which hold the pack saddle on the animal's back.

A pack saddle

Baskets are fixed on the pack- saddle.

You can easily make a pack- saddle yourself. The pads are made with old sacks stuffed with grass and sewn up. The back- strap and the girths can be made of leather or plaited rope.

The donkey must get used to carrying the pack- saddie. At first put it on without a load, then gradually increase the load.

Donkey with pack- saddle

A donkey can carry 100 kilogrammes of goods over long distances and bad tracks,

A donkey can also pull a light cart. Do not put a load of more than 300 kilogrammes in the cart.

The pack- saddle is used for carrying loads in places where a cart cannot go.

· Pulling carts or implements

When a donkey is to pull a cart or an implement, give it a collar (see page 37) or a breast- strap (see page 38) and fix a chain to each side of it.

A donkey is not as strong as an ox. But it can easily pull a harrow, a hoe or a seed drill. Two donkeys can plough in light soil.

You can harness a donkey with a collar

Donkey collar

It is difficult to make a good collar.

It must not hurt

Donkey with collar