The Milking Process:
The welfare of our Donkeys is our biggest priority with the number one rule, when working with them being, love and respect!!
The process of milking donkeys is highly complex and very different to that of cattle and goats. In the case of cattle and goats, the babies are usually taken away from their mothers at a week old and either put on the bottle or auctioned off as bottle babies and all of their mother’s milk is used for production, however donkeys are extremely sensitive animals and the Jenny (female Donkey) will only release her milk if her foal is present, to stimulate oxytocin release.
All the milk produced by the Jenny is for the foal for the first 2 months to ensure that baby gets the best start in life, after 2 months, we put the foals into a nursery group, separate from their mothers, during the day where they get high quality Foal Feed and grass. The Jennies are then turned out into a field next to their foals to graze. It is important that the Jennies and foals are always able to see each other to avoid stress. During the day the Jennies are milked every 3 hours as they do not have a reservoir for milk in their udders like cows. Milking is done by hand with a focus on optimum hygiene, and the foals needs to be in sight or next to the Jenny during milking to alleviate stress and stimulate milk release. Then in the afternoon the foals are reunited with their mothers and all milk produced in the evening is for the foal alone.
Jennies are fed on a grass only diet consisting of free range grazing on erogrostis fields during the day and high quality lucerne bales in the evening, we also feed rolled lucerne pellets during milking.
Milk production per day in donkeys is extremely low, a cow in milk produces on average 30 litres of milk per day and is only milked twice per day. Jennies produce only between 1 and 1,5litres of milk per day and need to be milked every 3 hours (with their foal present), milk is split between milk production and the foal, therefore, we only get on average 500mls of milk per day per Jenny.
With the small production per animal per day, donkey milk farming can never be intensive making it a rare product with only a limited supply.