Orphan miniature donkey foal ‘thrives’ after being adopted by sheep

An orphan miniature donkey is “thriving” after being adopted by two sheep when her mother died shortly after she was born.

Roberta was born at Folly Farm, an adventure park and zoo, in South Wales on 15 December 2018 when her mother, Marji, died 24 hours later.

Kim Brickell, assistant farm manager, told H&H: “Roberta had her mother’s colostrum for the first 24 hours, which was probably a lifesaver.

“We knew we would have to bottle-rear her but we thought ‘what are we going to feed this baby?’ We have milking goats on the farm and thought we’d give it a go. Goats milk has good properties for humans and animals alike so it was our first go to and Roberta loved it – she thrived off it.”

Kim said finding a surrogate dam for Roberta wasn’t possible and so the foal was introduced to “friendly” one-year-old sheep, Lamby and Snowy.

“Lamby and Snowy had been bottle-reared at Folly and were perfect for the job – because they had been bottle-reared they were even more friendly and placid. They were the prime suspects to become Roberta’s adoptive family,” she said.

“They bonded straight away. We weren’t sure how it was going to go, Roberta was small and fragile, but they were as good as gold, they were really kind to her and soft.”

Roberta, Lamby and Snowy now “snuggle up” at night together and Roberta has “thrived” without any setbacks.

“Lamby and Snowy do a lot of the mothering instinct for her, they teach her how to graze and things like that. Roberta has dropped down to three bottle feeds a day and is doing really well – she adapted to the goats milk like she’d been on it from the start,” said Kim.

“As the days and weeks go on she is growing at a rate of knots, you would never know she doesn’t have a mum. It’s not been detrimental on her life at all.”



Kim said despite her adoptive family, Roberta has still learned how to be a donkey.

“She stays with Lamby and Snowy but they all go out together with other donkey foals,” said Kim. “We’ve had two born since Roberta and she gives them a run for their money. Living with sheep you wonder if she knows how to behave like a donkey but she does and she learned how to ee-aw very loudly – she is a diva. She likes to greet you and comes running over for attention.

“Going forward Roberta will live with Lamby and Snowy as a unit but she’ll still run with the other donkeys. You wouldn’t be able to split Roberta from Lamby and Snowy, they’ve bonded together and donkeys make a very strong bond.”

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