Feeding straw is controversial in donkey circles, so we would like to address the pros and cons.
Upfront straw seems like a good feed for donkeys. It appears to imitate the woody, dry, chewy material that donkeys innately browse on in their natural desert environments. It is high in fiber and low in sugar and makes a good ‘nibble all day long’ feed. But, straw can be deceiving!
Straw may be low in sugar, but is traditionally HIGH in non-structural carbohydrates. These are the carbohydrates that are converted into sugar through the metabolic process. It also contains a lot of ‘lignin’ a non-digestible fiber that makes the straw shiny. This non-digestible fiber does not pass through your donkey’s digestive system easily.
Straw is also very low in moisture making it difficult for your donkey to digest and pass through the intestinal tract.
Due to these attributes, straw is known for causing chokes and colic impactions in donkeys, mules and horses.
Our experience with straw has not been positive. We realize that many people have good luck with straw, but at Donkey Whisperer Farm we don’t feed straw to our donkeys and don’t advocate that others do so. We feed a high quality, low sugar, low non-structural carbohydrate orchard grass hay and we test our hay every year to make sure the protein, sugar and NSC levels are in the low range.
If you choose to feed your donkey straw you must also feed hay!! Feeding only straw will not provide your donkey with the nutrition it needs and he/she will eventually suffer from malnutrition! Straw is only a between meal nibble! You must also provide plenty of fresh, clean water and the donkey must have the ability to move and exercise in order to digest the straw.
Lastly, if you choose to feed straw, even a little bit, we highly recommend you have your straw tested! Some straws are extremely high in carbohydrates and protein and will cause obesity and metabolic disorders.
In the end, you must make the choice, but from our vantage point straw is best left out of your donkey’s diet.
Source: Kelly Probst
Melody Johnson, Donkey Whisperer Farm, LLC
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