Donkeys – food and water

Nutritional information for donkeys.


Donkeys must have access to adequate and appropriate water for their age, stage of growth, exercise output and weather conditions.

Donkeys require between 18–35 litres of water each per day depending on their stage of production, size and environmental/climatic conditions. During lactation and shortly after weaning, donkeys will have an increased water requirement.

Automatic waterers are the preferred and most efficient method of providing water to donkeys in paddocks or yards. If this is not possible then adequately sized containers must be provided to ensure adequate quantity and quality is available for the number, age, production level, bodyweight and type of stock, dry matter content of the feed provided and the weather conditions (air temperature, available shelter and humidity).


Donkeys must have access to adequate and appropriate feed for their age, stage of growth, exercise output and weather conditions.

Quantity and quality of feed should be based on:

  • Bodyweight and/or fat/ body condition score
  • Extra demands based on growth, pregnancy, lactation and exercise
  • Prevailing/predicted weather conditions.

Regular assessment should be made of the needs of the donkeys in relation to the quantity and quality of feed. This can be done by weighing donkeys and using a condition scoring system regularly.

Donkeys are grazing and browsing animals that will eat pasture and other high fibre vegetation types. They eat small amounts, but often throughout the day. They thrive on a high fibre, low sugar diet. If donkeys are kept in paddocks, depending on the amount and quality of pasture available, their grazing may have to be restricted and supplemented with a low sugar alternative such as barley straw. This may need to be done to control their weight and reduce the risk of laminitis.

Grazing can be restricted by strip grazing, using electric fencing or yarding. If donkeys require yarding to restrict their grazing, supplementary hay or straw must be provided. It is recommended to feed hay or straw in a hay net or slow feeder to mimic how they would graze/browse in their natural environment.

If donkeys do require supplementary feeding due to lack of sufficient grazing opportunity, their diet should be supplemented with low sugar equine feeds, high fibre pellets, chaff, equine mineral blocks and low sugar hay. Where there is limited grazing or browsing opportunity, donkeys should have a very regular or constant supply of roughage such as hay, straw, silage or chaff to meet their high fibre needs.

When providing supplementary feeds, the rule is to introduce new food types slowly and carefully, do not feed excessive grains, feed plenty of high quality roughage and feed small amounts at frequent intervals.

Regular monitoring should be carried out to help identify shy feeders or overweight animals and allow for their management before they drop condition or become excessively overweight.


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