Managing feed for our resident herd of donkeys in Liscarroll requires careful planning all year round by Declan Sexton, Head of Farms. Summertime and the annual haylage harvest plays a major part in that planning process
Earlier this summer, our farm team cut and saved haylage from 125 acres of land across our four farms in Liscarroll to feed our resident herd during the upcoming winter months. Declan Sexton, Head of Farms was delighted with the good weather in June that allowed the harvest to go ahead in one session.
He said: “Due to the cold and wet weather at the end of April and early May, grass growth was slow to start. As a result, the harvest quantity is lower than I would like it to be but the quality of the haylage the team has saved is good”. After the haylage was cut and saved, it was baled by contractors and then carefully brought back to the farms to be stacked and stored by our farm team.
In preparing the haylage harvest for storage, Declan and his team carefully plan what quantities are needed and where. Over 400 of our herd live on Hannigans Farm where there is lots of storage and the groups of donkeys are larger. Round bales are perfect for this farm as once fresh bales are opened, they are used.
The Open Farm is smaller with just over 130 donkeys in smaller groups on site. Therefore, square bales are more suitable to the Open Farm ensuring optimum use of haylage. Donkeys are trickle feeders and they eat barley straw ad lib all year round, meaning they eat small amounts of straw whenever they want it.
During the spring and summer months, our donkeys’ straw diet is supplemented with controlled access to grass when they graze in their paddocks. In the winter months when grazing is not possible, the herd receives a controlled amount of haylage.
Declan likes to ensure that we have a couple of months of haylage in reserve at any time. He said: “In Ireland, we can never predict the weather. As a result, year on year, we don’t know how we will be affected by bad weather, grass growth and access to paddocks for grazing. At all times we have to think ahead and be prepared for any scenario. I am delighted that we have our haylage crop stored for winter, but depending on how the weather is over the next few months, we may have to buy in more haylage as well as buying barley straw.” Due to dental challenges, not all of our donkeys can eat barley straw or haylage. Many of our elderly donkeys live on a diet of short chop food. This ensures that they get the nutrition they need to keep healthy.
Thanks to regular donations from you, we can continue to care for the donkeys and mules on our farms. If you would like to make a donation today, please click here