Donnie Liddle's Andes farm is home to a dozen donkeys

By Joe Moskowitz
If you happen to be driving on Dingle Hill road in Andes, and you hear something that doesn’t sound native to those parts, the noise just may be coming from one of Donnie Liddle’s donkeys.
Donnie started raising donkeys more than a decade ago. He originally bought two, one jack and one jennie, and before too long he had six.
Liddle, who retired from MTC in 2007, now has an even dozen, including two newborn foals. Over the years people have given him donkeys because they know he will take good care of them.
Donkeys can be used for work, but not by Donnie. They can be ridden, but Donnie doesn’t ride them. He says he got the first two because, “It was something different.”
Though closely related to horses, donkeys don’t behave the same. Liddle says horses can be temperamental, but donkeys always seem to be fun loving. Liddle said donkeys rarely get sick, while horses can be prone to a variety of illnesses. And, Liddle says that they are more sure-footed than horses and are much cheaper to keep. They also live to be about 40 years old. That’s several years longer than most horses live.
Liddle keeps them for two reasons; he thinks they are great pets and they are also great guard animals.
Donkeys really do make a “hee-haw” sound when they are alerted. He said there are plenty of coyotes near his farm and he raises beef cows and their calves. Coyotes love veal, but when they hear the incredibly loud hee-haws from Don’s donkeys, they keep their distance from the calves.

Popular with visitors
People, on the other hand, love to come near the donkeys. They are friendly, curious, and unusual for the area. Liddle said there are a few area farmers who have miniature donkeys, but few full-sized animals.
Liddle said some locals stop by quite often. Bud and Peg Barnes usually make the trip from Arkville when they hear that a baby donkey has been born. The Liddle farm is a favorite stop for neighborhood kids, and even though the farm is off the beaten path, people manage to find it and stop by just to see the donkeys. Donnie said that he has a steady flow of visitors during the summer. 
The donkeys don’t live alone on the Liddle farm. They share the space with a horse, three dogs, a cat, and a mule, all rescue animals. Donnie also raises beef cattle. The sale of their meat will pay for feed for the other animals.

Not so stubborn
Donnie said that the mule, which is a sterile cross between a donkey and a horse, doesn’t deserve the mule’s reputation for being all that stubborn, but it does get into trouble. So do the donkeys. Liddle said they all can sense an open gate half-a-mile away, but even when they go on a “road trip,” they will return when they hear him banging on the grain pail.
Because they are such likable animals, people sometimes tell him they want to buy one, but they rarely show up when it is time to complete the deal.
One exception was Paul Begala’s son. Begala is a former CNN host and was an aide to President Clinton. He has a second home in the area.
Liddle said Begala got two donkeys but, “He had to have donkeys. He’s such a Democrat.”