Joan Young greets a mini donkey at Joy Miniature Donkeys farm in Belmount Forest, less than 60 km away from Canberra, Australia, Aug. 11, 2018. (Xinhua/Pan Xiangyue)
CANBERRA, Aug. 13 (Xinhua) -- When she flew across the country, Australian woman Joan Young is CEO of a research company. But when she returned to her farm, the 51-year-old put on her farmwear and became a breeder.
As soon as she entered her farm in Belmount Forest, less than 60 km away from Canberra, her miniature donkeys, 90 cm tall at most, gathered around her. She caressed each one of them and called their names like "Silver Lady" and "Sophie".
"I saw them born and brought them up," she said. "They have different personalities and they look different. It is easy to recognize them."
Young said her love for the animal stemmed from a childhood wish. "When I was little I always wanted a pony," she said. "They say what you couldn't get at the age of seven you will always want when you are adult."
Now she has 125 miniature donkeys, among which she called the male "Jack" and the female "Jenny".
In fact, miniature donkeys, less than two-thirds of the height of ordinary donkeys, are becoming popular as pet among the Aussies.
Young's farm, Joy Miniature Donkeys, is the biggest farm in Australia breeding the small donkeys, covering 125 acres (about 50 hectares). Fifteen pregnant donkeys were kept separately, enjoying extra meals and care. Some old donkeys and newborns wore coats in cold and wet days.
Young started breeding miniature donkeys about 20 years ago, when she began keeping donkeys on a neighbours farm for 10 Australian dollars a week each. But by the time she had 10 donkeys at the farm it was more cost effective to buy her own farm.
In 1999 she had her first farm, which covered 15 acres. As there were then less than 10 in the country she was initially only able to source one purebred and two part-bred American Miniature Mediterranean donkeys in Australia and so had to import donkeys from New Zealand and United States and use miniature Irish donkeys to increase the gene pool of miniature donkeys.
As numbers grew she began to sell donkeys not needed for her breeding program and found an ever increasing demand for both gelding and breeding stock.
Prices ranged from 2,500 Australian dollars (1,818 U.S. dollars) for a gelding to 12,000 (8,727 U.S. dollars) plus for imported purebreds.
Young would always sell in pairs for pets, "They are social animals" she said, or packages, with one Jack and several Jennies for breeders.
"I ask buyers to sign a purchase agreement," she said. "If they can no longer look after them, I will buy them back. For instance, sometimes people need the money, cannot buy hay, or they become ill or get older and so can no longer care for them."
She only sold donkeys to overseas buyers once, to Thailand 10 years ago. "Then I was worried, because I couldn't track them. I hadn't been able to find out how they lived." So she stopped selling them to abroad.
Young said there are some up to 30 breeders in Australia selling miniature donkeys. Throughout the years she saw an increasing number of people buy donkeys as pets and she specializes in helping breeders set up their studs.
To help people know the animal better, she takes them to different agricultural shows. An Australian Broadcast Corporation creature feature was made to tell their stories.
Now she could sell 20 to 30 donkeys a year, with more buyers on the waiting list.
"They cannot be sold until six months after birth, because when they were young, they must be with their mom," she said. Now there are six people on the waiting list.
Those who buy the donkeys are usually people having a few acres who would like to have a pet their grandchildren can play with.
"Donkey is among the oldest domesticated animals," she said. "They are close to people. Each one of them is special."