Donkeys in demand

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Ann Heffernan, with 3-week-old Donnbrae Velvet Vixen.

CUTE, cuddly, hairy and delightful… Ann Heffernan’s newest foals are absolutely gorgeous.

A breeder of English donkeys for the past 10 years, Ann’s latest additions include four foals.

It’s a busy lifestyle with a herd of 13 donkeys, including six jennys, two geldings, the four foals and one stud jack.

Donkeys have been a big part of Ann’s, and her family’s, life for many years.

As well as showing some of the donkeys at various A&P shows throughout the year, Ann said the breed were ideal as pets and for riding.

“They can also be put in harness and are ideal for little children.”

One of the most popular was Snowman, who was so well behaved he was often asked to attend church services for Easter and Christmas.

“He gets paid in apples, and is very popular.

“Snow loves going to church. He is very good at walking up the steps, then he turns around and looks at me. He knows what to do and takes charge.”

After the church services, some of the children had donkey rides outside, Ann said.

The donkeys were also asked regularly to go to school pet days to show and for rides.

Ann said although donkeys were popular, there was a shortage of them.

“There’s a demand in the South Island [for donkeys], as there is a shortage because there are not enough breeders.”

Katie Johnstone (18, left) and Ann Heffernan among some of her herd of donkeys and foals.

The national secretary for the Donkey and Mule Society of New Zealand, Ann said donkeys were a lifestyle.

“You can’t have just one donkey – they are social animals.”

Gestation was generally 12 months.

Once they were born, Ann was keen to keep them for about a year to train them to stand and lead nicely, she said.

This year Ann and some of her herd had already shown at the Winton A&P Show, where Lollipop gained a first in the brood mare class, and the others came second, third and fourth in various classes.

“Bobby, at 1 year, went for the experience.”

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