Monday, May 19, 2008

Molly the Guard Donkey

The air was pleasantly cool for May in North Carolina. A light breeze caressed my skin as I walked down the shaded farm lane that led to the cow pasture. I was told the cows would probably be in the shade, guarded by a spotted donkey named Mollie.

Yes, that really is Molly’s job; she is a guard donkey. She protects calves from coyotes, dogs or other would-be predators or aggravators that may wander into the pastures at Lynch Creek Farm.

I found the cows, but did not see Molly among them. I walked back up the path, getting a little short of breath on the uphill trek. From the top of the hill and around the green house I could see the front door of the barn. Molly poked her head out the door to see what was up. I followed the farmer into the pasture as he hopped on a tractor to pull a trailer loaded with bales of straw and a bunch of kids giggling and talking. They were bound for a hayride. I asked if I could walk along. As soon as Molly saw company coming she left the barn and took her post with the cows and calves.

By that time others who were taking the Franklin County Farm tour were taking the walk along the path outside the pasture fence. So, Molly had myself and another photographer inside the pasture to watch, plus a whole bunch of folks standing on the other side of the fence. But she took it in good humor, posed for photographers and let a friendly cow approach me for a head scratching.

More and more donkeys are being employed to keep watch over sheep, goats, miniature horses, and other livestock. Coyotes are becoming more common in the east, and pose a threat to small animals, as do stray dogs. Donkeys don’t particularly like canines and are reported to be very good at escorting them out of pastures. The Texas Department of Agriculture reports on their website that donkeys are being used by many ranchers and farmers to guard their herds of livestock, especially the young. Donkeys work around-the-clock, are widely available, inexpensive to keep, and require no special training. Just be sure you don’t get one that has been acclimated to dogs, otherwise they are naturally aggressive toward all canines.

Bob Radcliffe, owner of Lynch Creek, obviously feels some affection toward Molly. He related how the cows did not like Molly at first. “Well, they didn’t know what she was,” he said. But the cows got used to her and now let her boss them around. Bob says he sometimes sees them playing and nipping at each other. Perhaps Molly pretends to be a cutting horse, as Bob says she will herd the cows from place to place. Maybe she senses they are safer when she can dictate to them their movements. She takes her job seriously and the cows seem to appreciate her efforts.


Robert said...

Donna - you captured "Molly" beautifully - thanks for visiting - your Blog made all the work seem worthwhile - to read more about "Molly" see our website News Release at - Bob Radcliffe, Lynch Creek Farm

Donna Campbell Smith said...

Thank you. I had a great time visiting your beautiful farm. Molly was your star attraction.