What started off as a routine check of cattle tags on a Meath farm by Department of Agriculture (DAFM) officials turned into a full blown donkey rescue with a wholly unexpected twist in the tail – Storm Desmond. The farmer in question admitted to having ‘’a couple of donkeys’’ on the land; however a quick walk of the 40 acres saw this increase to 15 donkeys, with some very obvious hoof issues. The donkeys were extremely timid and difficult to approach so the Dept. vet called Donkey Welfare Adviser Cathy Griffin for advice and support. The weather gods threw their worst weather at her (Storm Barney) when she visited: storm force winds, rain, hail, sleet, even snow but the show had to go on. She found 17 donkeys in all many of which had severely overgrown hooves: some certainly looked like they had never been trimmed. Some of the mares looked like they might be pregnant but there was no adult stallion to be seen, alive or dead on the land. The Donkey Sanctuary (TDS) Welfare team worked with My Lovely Horse (MLH, a midlands equine welfare group) and made a plan to round up, load, transport and assess the donkeys at their base locally.
Cathy, Eugene, Joe and Suzi (from TDS GB team) met on the appointed day with three DAFM officials and a DS camera crew over from Devon. Thankfully, the donkeys cooperated beautifully and the round up and transport went smoothly with minimal stress to animals and humans – in large part due to Cathy and Eugene’s careful planning and expertise. All 17 were brought in two loads to MLH rescue centre, assessed, some farriery performed and a batch selected for transport south that same day. Two days later the remainder were moved also to rejoin their mates. This operation was only made possible by the collaboration of so many, all overseen and recorded by a very capable camera crew. An exhausting but very rewarding case for all to be involved with: but the drama wasn’t over yet!
Once settled into an Emergency Livery facility in South Tipperary these donkeys were wormed and all had their feet now trimmed (both undoubtedly first time experiences). They were introduced to straw and Donkey MolliChaff - again a first. Joe visited in the middle of Storm Desmond and was sure that the roof would lift from the shelter overnight in the storm-force gales and accompanying rain. A plan was made to microchip and separate mares/fillies from the young colts. Instead the following morning came news of the delivery of ‘Storm Desmond’ – a fine strong colt that emerged alongside a mummified foetus – his twin. Equines rarely deliver two live healthy foals and this is sometimes nature’s solution. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts by local staff and vets – including administering colostrum and supervised suckling – poor Storm D. was rejected by his mum Breeze. She just didn’t seem to want to know him.
So at 48 hours of age Storm D. had his next road trip and hit the road for The Sanctuary in Cork! Veterinary Surgeon Kerstin and her team welcomed him warmly at TDS where he was fed straight away with milk replacer. They examined him, administered a shot of tetanus antitoxin and started him on medication to help his stomach transition from mother’s milk to replacer. Isolation Supervisor Dawn drew up a feeding rota: every 2 hours during the day and every 3 hours during the night with about 200 ml of foal milk replacer at each feed to begin with. Gradually the amount will be increased and the frequency of feeds decreased with a plan to transfer to a bucket, ideally one with a built-in teat so that he can help himself at the milk bar. We were on the look-out for a suitable companion and thankfully we have matched 7 month old filly foal 'Treacle' with Storm D. Treacle was abandoned at a horse fair recently.
Storm Desmond is the product of a huge collaborative effort – Dept of Ag, My Lovely Horse, an Emergency Livery staff and vet, and The Donkey Sanctuary Welfare and Vets teams.