While the donkey was shunned aside for its ‘asinine’ values, its milk was revered as the elixir of life. It was Hippocrates who first wrote about the medicinal values of donkey’s milk. The most popular mention of donkey’s milk in history is about Queen Cleopatra, who used to bathe in it to preserve her youth. As cow’s milk became a more popular choice for the masses, the values of donkey’s milk was forgotten with time. In Kerala, one man decided to embark on a journey to bring back the lost glory of donkey’s milk. Aby Baby is now a man with a donkey farm.
Hailing from Ramamangalam, Aby used to work as the marketing manager of an IT firm in Bangalore for few years. “I later started my own web development firm before deciding to step into the world of donkey farming.” When asked about what influenced him to start something so different, he fishes out a memory from his student years and says, “An entrepreneur friend of mine, who belongs to a business family, once told me that he would one day become like ‘Goodknight Mohanan’. When quizzed about the speciality of this person, he mentioned about the revolutionary mosquito mats, which he found in a hotel in Japan. It so happens that as I met key personalities who have brought about major changes, I too wanted to venture into a unique field, something without competition.”
Shedding light on the properties of donkey’s milk he says, “I spent a good deal of time researching about it. The US officially accepted donkey’s milk in 2015 and the UK is yet to accept. Right now, there is a high demand for donkey’s milk in the US for its medicinal value, as a cure for autism, asthma and many other illnesses. In the US, parents of children with PANDA syndrome (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated) are now relocating their homes near to donkey farms, to get fresh donkey’s milk for treatment.”
He adds, “Donkey's milk is similar to human milk for its lactose, protein and minerals. It contains immune-enhancing compounds to help protect infants from infection and disease.” Aby’s plan was to explore the potential of donkey’s milk in cosmetics. He found that people would go to any lengths to find a cure for their skin problems. And this resulted in him launching his own brand of cosmetics called Dolphin IBA. A first-of-its-kind initiative in India, which currently has 10 products on sale.
He says he had no support of any kind when he came up with the plan. “I bought these donkeys from Tamil Nadu. Looking after them is no easy task. I currently have around 20 donkeys. Initially, I had about 36 of them. Donkeys are wild animals, it takes a lot of time to domesticate them. Buying a donkey and looking after it is a costly affair. Each donkey has a unique behavior pattern. We have to get to know them very closely. They will also be very attached to their master. Natural and Co3 grass are their main food. We also bring home grass from various places exclusively for them.”
“It’s not just the milk that is high demand. People come here to collect donkey urine, as this too is said to have medicinal properties,” he adds. For Aby, this was all a slow process. “The farm is on a two-acre land. There is a shed for the donkeys. None of this happened overnight. It was achieved one step at a time, after endless efforts. Plenty of people visit the farm out of sheer curiosity. Just drop by at Ramamangalam and enquire with anyone about the donkey farm and they would point in the right direction.”