2006-11-02 / Front Page
Donkey to protect local farm from wild coyotes
BY JENNIFER KOHLHEPP & JANE MEGGITT
The new guard dog in town is a donkey.When coyotes recently killed one of Dr. Joanne Bicknese's goats at Locustwood Farm in Upper Freehold, she not only made the fencing around her property more secure, she also decided to invest in a donkey. Bicknese raises goats for meat.
While llamas and donkeys will protect sheep and goats from canines, Bicknese said she decided on a donkey because llamas can reportedly get a parasite from white-tailed deer called meningeal worm, which requires aggressive prevention that she did not want to deal with.
Bicknese's donkey is being shipped from Iowa and is proven against predators, she said.
Bob and Marianne Craft Norton, of Craft's at Bluffton, in Decorah, Iowa, have donkeys for sale and offer some general information to people who may be thinking about using donkeys to guard their property.
The Nortons have had guard donkeys on their Iowa sheep farm for 18 years. They have never had a single incident of injury or death by the predators, although there are many coyotes that are seen and heard frequently in their area, according to Mr. Norton.
The coyotes fear the donkeys and never come closer than about 200 yards to the family's barnyard, according to Mr. Norton.
He said his family has seen their donkeys chase and stomp to kill roaming dogs that wandered into their pastures.
Coyotes can only escape donkeys by running in zig-zag patterns because donkeys have trouble changing direction quickly, according to Mr. Norton.
Mr. Norton said intact male donkeys (jacks) should not be used as guard animals in sheep pens or pastures, as they will also attack and chase sheep. He said females (jennies) and geldings (johns) therefore work the best for coyote protection.
Bicknese is purchasing a 6-year-old jenny named Sugar Candy for $1,200 from the Nortons. The animal is good with people, according to Mr. Norton.
Mrs. Norton added, "She is so tame. I will miss her but know she is in good hands."
The Nortons have several other jennies and johns for sale. Prices start at $500 for solid-color donkeys, with spotted jennies priced between $700 and $1,500. Their spotted donkeys are registered with the American Council of Spotted Asses, according to Mr. Norton.
"The expense of any required health papers (coggins test, etc.) is the responsibility of the buyer," Mrs. Norton said.
The donkeys that the Nortons sell for coyote protection are born in the barnyard pen where the sheep are also kept, according to Mr. Norton.
He said donkeys eat the same hay and mineral as sheep, and that they also feed at the same feeders. Donkeys clean up stemmy hay and leftovers rejected by sheep, he said.
However, donkeys cannot be trusted with late-term pregnant ewes or new lambs. The donkey will be surprised at the arrival of newborn lambs, which they will treat as a predator, according to Mr. Norton. Donkeys can go back in with ewes and lambs after about 4 months of age, which is when the lambs are weaned, he said.
"We have also put donkeys in with wethers and rams with good results," he said. "It seems that just the presence of donkeys in adjacent pastures or pens is sufficient to scare dogs and coyotes away."
In addition to their value as guard animals, donkeys make wonderful pets, according to Mr. Norton.
"They are intelligent and love human attention," he said.
A single donkey is best as a guard animal, as that requires the donkey to hang around the sheep rather than hanging around with other donkey buddies, according to Mr. Norton.
"I do suspect that donkeys would prefer to have one or more other donkey buddies in their pasture, however," he said.
As of Oct. 27, Mr. Norton was in Plymouth, Mass., delivering a guard donkey. From there he headed to New Jersey to deliver Sugar Candy to Bicknese, Mrs. Norton said.
According to Bicknese, the goat killed on her property was pregnant with two kids. She said the goat is the first livestock kill by a coyote that she is aware of in the area.
With regard to the Nortons, she said, "No matter what you buy, you have to buy from someone reputable."
For more information about guard donkeys, visit www.craftsatbluffton.com.