We have donkeys and mules at Rancho del Gallo - three of each. Our jenny (female) donkeys are the daughters of a rescue burro from the Grand Canyon; and our Jack, Otis, joined us last year. So, we expect babies sometime next year. Donkeys have a 13-month gestation, meaning it’s a long time before the main event.
Adi has three riding mules, and two of them drive either singly or as a team. We’ve never used them as pack animals but Alberto will use them to drag a log once in awhile.
Equine help to create a balance on the farm as their preferences for grazing differs from the cows and sheep. The donkeys will eat dried, nasty weeds - even thistles - when there is fresh, sweet grass growing right next to the weeds. And the mules do a good job mowing down the willows that naturally creep into the pastures.
There is an added benefit of providing mixed manures throughout the farm and equine add to that diversity. While cow manure is balanced and brings the ultimate benefit to the land, equine manure tends to be hot and dry and, therefore, is not ideal for an arid environment such as Paonia. But it does add organic matter to the soils over time.
Both the mules and donkeys are useful working animals, but it is their natural intelligence and humorous characters that are the most endearing of their qualities.