Heike & donkeys

Feature Article in Sunday Mail Sept 2013

Destiny Boonah Eco Cottages & Donkey Farm recently featured the Sunday Mail as part of an article by Alice Gorman. We're feeling very lucky to be featured and wanted to make sure you didn't miss out. You can Read Alice’s blog at www.alicegorman.com.au. The full article is below:

Advocate Brays Praise of Paddock Guardians

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) 15 Sep 2013 HEIKE Mack-Behle sees herself as more than just a donkey farmer. It’s her passion for these often overlooked animals that led her to start Destiny Donkey Farm at Boonah, southwest of Brisbane. The former champion dressage rider from Germany was forced to find a new fourlegged animal to love when she developed an allergy to horses in her late teens. It was a tough allergy to bear, given she was living at her mother’s horse stud in Germany’s Black Forest. In 2000, a series of life events and a desire to give her children a better future led Heike to Boonah, a town settled by German migrants in the late 1800s. When she and husband Thomas bought an 80ha property, they knew they needed animals to maintain the land. They weren’t into cows and horses weren’t an option. Then they had their first encounter with donkeys. Heike, like many others with horse allergies, does not have a problem with donkeys. “You can smell a horse but you can’t smell donkeys,” Heike says. “Horses have that oil in their coat and donkeys don’t have that because they’re a desert animal.” Heike bought three wild donkeys at auction. “Compared to horses, I found them very, very different,” she says. “They were quieter, calmer and smarter. “They’re very entertaining, extremely curious and very social. Donkeys are very docile and easy to train.’’ Heike was so enamoured with her new animals that four weeks later she bought another three. Word spread and soon she was being approached by people to take on their donkeys, or to rescue those that were being poorly cared for. She became a familiar face at saleyards, rescuing donkeys destined for the knackery. Her own herd now boasts 25 donkeys and she has a long list of people who wish to rescue and rehome donkeys. That list includes farmers, keen to use donkeys to guard sheep and goat herds. Donkey Hearding Sheep “If I’m aware of a younger, unhandled donkey with no health issues then I connect them with the farmers for livestock protection,’’ says Heike, who is the president of the Queensland Donkey Society. “I supply donkeys to people on hobby farms as well as people on big, big, big farms with between 5000 and 10,000 sheep. “Donkeys are extremely social and when you put a donkey in with some sort of live stock, the donkey thinks, ‘Wow these are all my mates’. “They roam with them day and night. They just love sheep, calves, foals – but they absolutely can’t stand canines. “Dingos, wild dogs, crossbreeds, the neighbour’s dogs, foxes – they will chase them, they will stomp on them, they will give them the sign to stay away from their mates. “They can get even more aggressive and bite them and grab them at the neck and throw them around. The dog definitely gets the message. “I would say 90 per cent of donkeys have this special instinct and really hate canines. “I get very positive feedback from farmers who say normally they would have lost 20 lambs and this season they’ve only lost two or three. “They can see an improvement.” Donkeys live for up to 50 years, which is why so many are rehomed or rescued. A donkey bought in early retirement has the potential to outlive its owner. Often families whose children have grown up and left home find the ongoing commitment of caring for the family donkey too much. “It’s a big issue,” Heike says. “I get approached by people who say they’ve had an animal for over 30 years but can’t look after it anymore. “I do this purely for the donkeys – they’re all my babies. “I don’t know why but I just have a very special chemistry with donkeys. “Because I understand donkeys, I feel like I’m their voice. “My job is to educate people and in that way help the donkeys. “Before I started, people used to say, ‘It’s only a bloody donkey’. Now people say, ‘Oh they’re so gorgeous’.”

Written by

Heike is the Owner and Manager of Destiny Boonah Eco Cottages & Donkey Farm. An avid Donkey Welfare supporter, Heike fell in love with donkeys fast and now spends her days working to provide refuge and love for her fury friends.