Mustering feral donkeys and training them to protect livestock from wild dogs is a lucrative endeavour for the Baty family.

Story By Mark Muller

The sun is setting over the yards on Milpa Station, a couple of hundred kilometres north of Broken Hill. Freshly caught feral donkeys are milling in the background as Joe Baty and his three eldest children William, Bec and Megan jostle and line up for a photo after a solid day’s work. There’s a bit of skylarking that Joe tries to curb with only moderate success, given that he’s instigating a fair bit of it.
The donkeys will go on to be guardian animals – protecting livestock from wild dogs. “One donkey, once it’s bonded with sheep, or goats or whatever you choose to bond it with, can look after about 350 sheep in open country,” Joe says. “The type of country influences how many animals the donkey can protect, but they do protect them. Donkeys hate dogs, and are aggressive animals. They bite and kick out with their back legs and use their front hoofs like jackhammers. Dogs don’t have a chance.”
With each donkey worth between $400 and $600 unbonded, and about $800 bonded, today’s haul of 30 pulled out of the scrub below the low-lying hills that fringe Milpa Station is well worth the effort.
Joe will head off after donkeys when he can, and is prepared to travel long distances for them. Last year he mustered about 230, many in the far-flung reaches of Queensland’s Channel Country.

This Story is from Issue #99

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2015