We’re expecting again!!!

OK, Grandma’s, before you go and have a fit that we haven’t notified you in person, read on:

Congratulations to the expectant mother, Shiloh.

Doesn’t she look thrilled?  Actually, in the above photo, she is giving me her pouty face, as she was sick of me messing with her.  What you can’t see in this photo is one of the many contraptions I designed to hang on her hind end, in an attempt to collect the urine necessary for the test.  For those of you who care, it was a week-long process, and that will be the majority of the topic for the rest of this post. 

First, though, you may be wondering why I would waste the money on a Wee-Foal equine pregnancy test.  Well, I probably shouldn’t have, but in CO, our hay crisis is already starting.  About 2 months ago, I got word that our prices were threatening to rise quickly, I calculated out roughly how many bales I thought I might need for winter, and I ordered a bulk order of bales.  2 months later, we are well over 30% through our hay, and prices are beginning to climb quickly.  I bought at just over $8/bale, delivered and stacked.  Current prices are creeping over $12/bale unless you order in big-time bulk (like upwards of 600 bales).  They are forecasting prices around $20/bale by years end.  Most suppliers have already run out.  I am nervous.  I also know a donkey can thrive on very little hay.  A good portion of Shiloh’s hay is the stemmy leftovers that the goats would otherwise waste.  I think my biggest calculation mistake came in the fact that I didn’t consider all the animals almost doubled their hay intake when the temps get below 30.  Metabolizing roughage helps them generate the body heat necessary to stay warm in cold conditions. 

In any case, if Shiloh was not pregnant, I didn’t want to feed her any extra hay than she needed.  If, however, she was pregnant, I wanted to ensure she got plenty to support herself and a growing foal.  I also was hoping to confirm how far along she was.  The pregnancy tests come in 2 versions:  one for 30-120 days gestation, and one for 120-300 days gestation.  A donkey’s average gestation is 360 days….far longer to wait and see than a goat’s 5 month gestation.  And, I admit, I just didn’t want to wait and hope for another 8-10 months, just to find out she wasn’t pregnant.  So, I went for it.  There was only one thing hindering my getting an answer.

I had to catch her pee.

As always, I did my research.  In the 6 weeks or so that we had owned her, I had only witnessed her pee once.  Believe it or not, I actually have better things to do than stand around waiting for a donkey to urinate.  My research said it was very simple to catch urine by simply taping a rag or gauze to her hind end, which would absorb the urine as she peed.  It sounded easy enough. 

I started with a small piece of gauze.  She peed, and totally missed the gauze.  So I switched it out for a rag.  Missed again.  I could’ve sworn I placed it in a good location, but to ensure full-coverage, I opened the rag up to almost full length, so I would cover her….parts…..top to bottom.  Mind you, each attempt meant waiting at least 3 hours for her to pee.  By this point, I was well into day 2.  Then, I attempted to reposition the rag lower.  After half a day, I found her pee-spot on the ground, but not a squeezable drop in my rag.  Ok, no problem.  It was just time for more drastic measures.  I pulled out more duct tape and a plastic bag.

Don’t you just love the look she’s giving me.  It’s pure adoration, I assure you.  (OK, ok, I know, by this point she is considering kicking my head off after what I’ve already put her through.)

So, I carefully ensured my bag covered all possible outlets for urine.  I looped the handle over her tail, figuring that when she lifted her tail to pee, it would open the bag for easy catching.  I also taped each side of the bag to her hips, to make sure it didn’t collapse close.  Then, as a final insurance, I put a rag in the bag, figuring if the urine weighed too much and caused the bag to drop off and spill, at least the soaked rag would provide me with enough of a sample. 

Have you thought of the problem with this design yet?  Yeah, neither had I.  It never crossed my mind, until I proudly finished up, took my photo, and turned to walk out of the pen.  As if to get the last word, she promptly lifted her tail……and pooped.  Right into my bag. 

Now, I was getting frustrated.  No biggie though.  It was a good design.  I just decided to find a good set of gloves, and regularly come dump any poop out of the bag.  So, for the next half day, that’s what I did.  Finally, late that evening, I went out for a poop check to find she had peed!  All over the outside of my bag.   There was a pile of poop, but not a single drop of urine in that bag!  *SIGH*

I was an animal biology and pre-vet major.  I studied anatomy.  I know where and how pee exits.  How she managed to completely by-pass my bag still baffles me.  I readjusted and tried again the next morning.  Hours later, same thing happened.  Now, I was frustrated and running out of ideas. 

Three days later, I had failed to get a sample.  A snow-storm was moving in the next day, so I was left with only a few hours to try to get a sample.  I re-researched, and saw that somewhat dirty would still work, so I decided to lay a towel over her favorite pee spot, and covered it with a bit of straw.  I figured she could pee on the towel, and I would just wring a sample out and use that.  This task was getting more disgusting by the hour.  A few hours later, I returned to find that Shiloh had discovered my towel, picked it up, tossed it aside, and peed where it had been.  *AAAGH!!*

I was out of time, and I wasn’t going through this in 20* temperatures.  She was at a point when I approached the pen, she ran and hid behind her shed.  I decided to give her some time off.  The snow came, I spent the time trying to regain her friendship, and 3 days later, the snows finally melted enough and the temps warmed enough I figured it was time to try again.  I devised a new plan. 

I figured her urine must flow too close to her body and too quickly downward for my previous design, so I thought I’d try to bring the bag further underneath her.  I wrapped a strap around her belly, cut a triangle-shaped bag, duct-taped the top of the bag just below her rectum (I was smart this time!), duct taped either side of the bag to her hips to keep it open, ran the lower end of the bag through her legs, and duct taped the bottom tip of the bag to the strap. 

Now she could poop without getting it in the bag, and if she managed to pee outside of this bag, I would have much bigger anatomical concerns to deal with, seeing as how every possible outlet was covered!  As a final precaution, I put a wad of absorbent tissue in the bag just in case it all poured out, I could still get a sample from the tissues.

About 3 hours later, I hit liquid gold!  My design FINALLY worked, and I was able to proceed with the test.  First, though, I discovered the tissues I had chosen had completely disintegrated in the urine, so I had to get the contraption off her without spilling and losing my whole sample.  I’ll spare you the details, but I managed to get a nice little bowl of filtered urine.  And it only took a week for the 1/8 tsp. sample I needed. 

Now that that’s over, thanks to a donkey’s long memory, I get to spend the next 10-20 years making it up to her.  She will probably try to kill me if ever approach her with a bag or roll of duct tape again.  For now, though, I am thrilled to know she is somewhere between 120-300 days pregnant, and we get to look forward to a cute, fluffy donkey foal (or 2 since donkeys often twin) next year. 

The question is, when?  The rescue who gave her to me said the act had occurred 3-4 months prior to me getting her.  That puts her around 5-6 months along.  Remember I said the average is 12 months?  Yeah, well, unlike horses and goats, which often deliver within a week of two of their average, donkeys like to pose more challenges and surprises.  Donkeys vary from 11-14 months.  That means I can expect a foal sometime between March and July.  That really narrows it down! 

Guess we’ll give her an easy winter, and even easier spring.  In the mean time, I will have to learn all about the signs of labor in a donkey, as that’s all I’ll have to go on.  Since donkeys, as a general rule, apparently prefer to foal in the quiet, peaceful, wee hours of the morning (like 2-5 a.m.), there is a very good chance I will walk out for chores one morning to find more than one donkey in my pen.  As always, guess we’ll see what happens.