Donkeys are hardy animals. But a baby donkey that’s abandoned at birth is in great jeopardy and needs extensive and special care. The first few hours after birth are critical to the health of the baby donkey. They need to be fed colostrum — the mother’s first milk after birth — within hours of being born to build antibodies necessary for immunity to germs and disease. You will need to bottle feed the baby donkey colostrum and milk substitute in order for it to survive and thrive if you are lacking the mother's milk.
Feed the foal three quarts of colostrum within the first 12 hours after birth if possible. The newborn needs the antibodies contained in the colostrum to build its immune system. If the donkey baby doesn’t receive the colostrum within the first few hours of birth, its system won’t be able to absorb the antibodies it needs to ward off disease. Colostrum provides the baby donkey with its primary source of nutrients. It also contains various hormones and growth factors necessary for growth and development of the digestive tract. Colostrum is also lower in lactose and decreases the incidence of diarrhea.
Feed the newborn foal 3 to 5 gallons of milk substitute a day. The donkey foal should be fed every two hours around the clock for the first month. There are many varieties of milk replacement available. Your local feed store can provide information on products available in your area. Stick with the same brand of milk replacement. Don’t switch from one brand to the other as it may cause digestive upset in the foal. Feed the foal goat’s milk if available. Milk substitute is expensive, so if you have a goat, its milk can be fed to the foal.
Changing Feeding Schedule
Change the milk replacement feeding schedule to four feedings a day at after two months. Feed the baby donkey in the early morning, at noon, in the late afternoon at bedtime. The baby should be fed approximately 10 to 20 percent of their birth body weight daily (1 quart of milk per every 2 pounds). If the foal weighs 90 pounds at birth it should be fed 4.5 quarts (9 pints) of milk daily or 1 quart per feeding when fed four times a day. Feeding less milk can result in poor growth. Overfeeding and sudden changes in the amount of milk fed can cause digestive upset.
Weaning the Donkey
The baby donkey should also have free-range of hay available from birth. It will begin nibbling hay at first, then eat more and more as it grows, requiring less milk. Cut back milk feedings to three times a day when the foal is three months old. You can feed milk in the morning, at noon and in the evening. The foal will be eating more hay at this point. Wean the foal at four months. The baby donkey should be weaned off milk replacement at four months of age. Some keepers continue to offer milk replacement until the foal is six months old, believing it gives them a better start.