The Top 10 Facts you never knew about Milking a Donkey

A few fun facts about milking donkeys for you, just in case you were wondering. The first thing is that it’s illegal to ship raw milk of any kind across state lines. The FDA is cracking down on camel farmers who have been doing it anyway. There are some who choose to risk it anyway or try to get around the law with coops, etc. Each individual state has it’s own additional raw milk laws. In Oklahoma, you have to pick up raw milk on the farm.  We choose to abide by the law, even though we have to turn people away because of it.  In my opinion, the ONLY people who should be milking donkeys are those who are doing it to help a loved one with a health condition, or those who have a heart for helping heal others.  NOT those out to make a quick buck.  They’ll be disappointed.

Momma Jewel and new baby Lucy

Momma Jewel and new baby Lucy

  1.  Donkeys can “cow kick.”  This means they can kick forward, sideways, and the standard backward kick.  Horses only kick backwards.  If you were milking a horse, you wouldn’t have to worry about getting kicked in the head while you’re kneeling in a vulnerable position.  It hurts.  Just ask my husband.  He’s the milker, I’m the singer.  Our donkeys prefer “Amazing Grace” but lullabies work in a pinch.
  2. Donkeys can bite.  It hurts.  Don’t lose your temper, they won’t forget it.
  3. Donkeys are sweet as molasses and much smarter than horses.  Forget the above two comments.  (Well, don’t forget them, just file them in the back of your mind and always be on your toes.)  Our momma donkeys were basically wild when we got them, and hadn’t been handled much at all, much less milked!  Before we attempted to milk them, we worked with them for months, hand feeding them, grooming them, getting them to love us, and falling in love with these amazing animals in the process.  I’ve only been bit once, and it was when I was trying to spray Rose with our organic essential oil fly spray.  She’s not a fan of the sprayer, and when they’re scared…they let you know it.  Luckily she bit me on my thigh.  Where I have extra cushioning.  Mmmmhmm.  And Jewel only kicked my husband because he was tying her back feet so she wouldn’t kick.  It was our first time milking her, EVER, and she was scared.  So she let him know it when he turned his back.  Luckily his arm wasn’t broken.  After that, he took my advice and we DIDN’T tie her feet.  HE felt safer with her feet tied back, but SHE felt safer with them left alone.  She wins, since she’s the one with the teats. Since then, she’s taken a few swings, but not made contact.  We’ll count our blessings.
  4. Mammoth Donkeys give a few cups of milk per milking.  Camels give 5-6 LITERS per milking.  Goats give around 2-3 QUARTS.  Cows give 6-7 GALLONS a day.  Which is why you don’t see many donkey farms around. Donkeys don’t have huge udders or reserves to hold hours worth of milk.  This means you need to milk them about 4-5 hours after separating them from their babies. For standards, this may need to be closer to 3 hours (according to an African Donkey Dairy site.)  After you’ve finished milking, you give the babies back to their mommas.
  5. You’ve got to have strong hands.  Donkeys don’t do well with milking machines.  They’re au naturel, baby.  And they only have two teats.  In case you were wondering.
  6. Donkeys aren’t cows.  You can’t take their babies away and make cutlets / sausage / veal out of them or they’ll dry up.  (YO!  You African donkey farmers, sausage is supposed to be made out of pigs and stuff, NOT cute lovable baby boy donkeys!!!!)  Because I have so many African donkey farmers reading my blog and caring what I think.  Right.
  7. Donkeys have an 11-13 month gestation.  That means it takes a full year to get a cute baby donkey.  And you can’t start milking right away.  The baby needs all it’s momma’s milk for a least 6-7 weeks.
  8. Donkeys dry up when they wean their baby, usually around 6 months, sometimes 9 months.  They’re a lot like people that way.  When momma’s done, she’s DONE.  Moving on.  Get yourself some grass like the other donkeys and quit yanking on my teats!  (What’s left of them.) They also dry up if their baby is born dead or dies, or if you decide to sell the baby and keep all the milk for yourself.  Not happening.
  9. Donkeys are precious, adorable, smart creatures that should be treated with kindness and respect.  If you’re going to breed, do it responsibly!  If you don’t have a good home for the baby, find someone to adopt it who does.  (That goes for the human kind as well.  Breed responsibly, people!  With a ring on.  The People.  Not the donkeys.  I’m done now.)
  10. Don’t mistreat your donkey or they may just tell you off.  Just ask Balaam.  It doesn’t turn out well.  What did I tell you, Donkeys are SMART!  Listen til the end, “And that’s how God used a Donkey to save his People.”  It’s an honor to own one.  Or two.  Or five.  

Oh, dear.  This is what you get when I blog in the morning.  Sorry.  Don’t unfollow me.  I’m not always this ridiculous…

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8 responses to “The Top 10 Facts you never knew about Milking a Donkey

  1. Great article! Thanks. I am trying to find out how feral donkeys in Manar region, Sri Lanka, might be tamed for transport and milk, thus saving the scarce vegetation and making them part of a productive community. Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated. So far, not even a plan in place!! But we will watch your posts. Thank you for posting this!

    • Anne, I would be happy to help if I can. One thing we’ve discovered is that a donkey never forgets…so a donkey that is wild, and has never been mistreated by a human, may be easier to train (the right way) than one that has been beaten or mistreated. I think your plan sounds great! There are some great training videos by Meredith Hodges that may help, and this http://www.amazon.com/Donkey-Training-Meredith-Hodges/dp/1928624022 God bless!

      • Thanks so much for your encouragement and the link. I don’t know much about these donkeys yet – but I guess having been through a civil war and not being welcome on farmers’ land might mean they have bad memories of humans! People in this area ditto! But the nutritional benefits of the milk would be very valuable to them, I am sure. Pity donkeys make so little milk. But better than none! Thanks again. I’ll watch for your posts etc.
        Anne

    • Thanks so much for this. Permaculture may well be an answer to the perennial problem of poor productivity in the area. Lots for me to go on with!!!

  2. You’re very welcome! Keep us posted on your progress. And have a Merry Christmas!!! :). Forgive me for asking…but are you by any chance the same Anne Millen who wrote the book More Than A Thousand Dawns?

  3. Hello,
    Thanks for your fantastic information. Donkey was my favorite animal since I was a child despite most of the people in Greece underestimate it. If I ever get a land (this is my dream) I will surely get at least one. Here is the link of a nice video (propably you are aware of it).

    Enjoy..!

    • Thank you so much for this video! I had never seen it, but I shared it with my little girls, and we all loved it! This donkey looks just like our jack. You’re right, they are underappreciated and misunderstood animals, here in the US as well. I hope one day you get your land and your donkey! Blessings!

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