Doing the donkey work at Donbrae

Anne Heffernan gets some attention from her donkeys with the help of a small treat. Photos: Ken Muir
Anne Heffernan gets some attention from her donkeys with the help of a small treat. Photos: Ken Muir
''Don't touch the ears'' is the not so subtle message from the donkey that approaches when I move into the paddock.

Donbrae English Donkey Stud owner Anne Heffernan quickly reassures me that any other sort of attention is always welcome from the animals.

Her interest in donkeys began with seeing jacks and jennys on a farm on the way to Oreti Beach.

In 2005, she purchased Snow Man from the Fernlea stud, intending to buy one donkey but coming back with two.

''Snow Man is well known around the place, having worked as a therapy donkey for our local Riding for the Disabled and attended many Santa parades,'' Mrs Heffernan said.

''He's also been a church-goer and has done fundraising for charity.''

The Wiltshire breed is known for it's unusual characteristic of moulting its short wool and hair coat naturally.
The Wiltshire breed is known for it's unusual characteristic of moulting its short wool and hair coat naturally.
Donbrae now has 12 donkeys and supplies progeny around the country. Mrs Heffernan said people buy them for all sorts of purposes, including riding.

''There are actually quite a lot of donkeys around the place, many more than most people realise,'' she said.

''In the South Island there is a predominance of English donkeys, although there is some interest in American breeds in the North Island.''

Although her donkeys are an English breed, the lines have deep links back to Ireland.

Mrs Heffernan said donkeys are easy to look after, and over-feeding was one of the main issues.

Donbrae is heavily involved in showing its donkeys, and Mrs Heffernan is a senior judge.

''One of the things about going to shows is that there is a nice sense of community among the owners,'' she said.

Besides her donkeys, and a swath of rescue animals, Mrs Heffernan also has a small flock of Wiltshire Horn Sheep on her property.

''We use them to keep our paddocks tidy for the donkeys,'' she said. ''As well, they are the ideal lifestyle block sheep as our animals are fully shedding, which means no shearing and crutching is required.''

 

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