The use of single working donkeys (Equus Asinus) in light tillage operations in Zimbabwe.

  • Z. Dube
  • L. R. Ndlovu
  • E. Nengomasha


Draught power shortage is a major constraint to agricultural production in the smallholder farming sector of Zimbabwe. A study was conducted at Matopos Research Station to investigate the feasibility of using single working donkeys (Equus asinus) in light tillage operations as a means of alleviating draught power shortage. Twenty-four donkeys were used in the study. They comprised 12 light (<130 kg) and heavy (>130 kg) donkeys which were equally representative of empty, pregnant, entire and castrate sex categories. The donkeys were characterized in terms of linear body measurements. Work output and physiological parameters were measured from single working donkeys in ripping.

Linear body measurements of donkeys were significantly (P<0.05) influenced by sex and live weight. Height at withers in heavy castrate males was 110.0 cm whilst light empty females, the smallest group stood at 98.7 cm. The donkey weights ranged from 113 kg to 162,7 kg. Linear body measurements, particularly live weight, were good predictors of work output of single working donkeys. Work output was significantly influenced by soil type (P < 0.05) and live weight (P < 0.001). Total work done by single-hitched donkeys ranged from 142.3 kJ to 423.3 kJ on heavy clay and from 151 kJ to 514.7 kJ on red loam soils. Heavy donkeys did work ranging from 301.3kJ to 514.7 kJ while light donkeys covered work ranging from 151 kJ to 271 kJ. Sex did not have a significant (P > 0.05) effect on work output. Single hitched donkeys worked for a maximum period of 15 minutes per trial. They also experienced changes in rectal body temperatures from pre-work resting values ranging from 37.7oC-38.2oC to 39.2oC - 39.7oC at work stoppage. Heart rates changed from 52.2 + 2.28 prework to 113.7 + 3.20 beats/minute at work stoppage. These changes were associated with fatigue signs.

UNISWA Jnl of Agric Vol 8 1999: pp 54-62

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