Aby Baby runs the only donkey farm in Kerala. The products that he makes from the milk is vitamin-rich, good for skin problems, and is an anti-oxidant
Photos: Aby Baby at his farm; Queen Cleopatra
By Shevlin Sebastian
At the donkey farm at Ramamangalam (30 kms from Kochi), a jenny had given birth. But the foal fell into a small pit. It was bleating pitifully. But when worker Mohanan was about to step forward, to lift the foal, the jenny let out a hiss. But Mohanan ignored the sound. Suddenly, the jenny turned around and gave such a hard kick that Mohanan lay sprawled on the ground. For good measure, he bit the worker on the arm. Mohanan got up and fled.
Owner Aby Baby smiles as he recounts the incident. “To protect its foal, a jenny can become ferocious,” he says.
Aby knows donkeys well. He is the owner of a two-acre farm which has twenty jennies and a foal. A male donkey (ass) died recently. Every day, he gets half a litre of milk from three jennies. When he gets six litres, he gets it freeze-dried.
Through this method, the milk is frozen to minus 40 degrees centigrade. During this process, the water is removed. The end result is a powder, with which he makes skin and cosmetic lotions, under the brand name of Dolphin IBA.
“Because the freeze-drying process is very expensive, my products, about 40 grams, have a starting price of Rs. 1920,” he says.
There is a belief that donkey's milk can cure skin problems. One who has had a positive experience is the Hyderabad-based home-maker Sweetie Paul. For four years, her eight-year-old daughter Selah suffered from lichen planus (a chronic inflammatory disease of the skin).
“I would get calls from the school saying that Selah was not able to concentrate because of itching,” says Sweetie. “We consulted many doctors in Hyderabad but there was no cure.”
Through her dad, who lives in Kochi, Sweetie came to know about the donkey ointment. She started applying it on her daughter, in January, this year. “Within three months, Selah's itching has stopped,” says Sweetie. “And her skin is 60 per cent back to normal.
Another happy customer is Aji K. Jacob, 47, who works as an office staff at a school in Kottayam district. He suffered for many years from keloids (a scar on the skin that causes excessive itching). “I tried many ointments but there was no cure,” he says. “By accident I came to know of Aby's products and began using them. After three weeks, my itchiness has completely gone. Now I can function as a normal human being.”
Dr (Maj.) Sudheesh S. Nair (Retd.), who worked with mules in the Army and is now an Assistant Professor in Surgery at the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, says, “Donkey's milk cures skin problems because it has a lot of vitamins like A, B, C, D, E, B12, as well as a high protein content.”
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation says donkey milk has 'particular nutritional benefits'.
In history too, donkey's milk was used regularly. Egyptian Queen Cleopatra took baths in donkey milk to preserve her beauty and youth. But the milk of about 700 donkeys was needed to fill her bath. Hippocrates, who is regarded as the father of medicine, was among the first to write about the benefits of donkey milk.
Meanwhile, back at his farm, Aby remains fascinated by donkeys. “They all have individual characters,” he says. “Some are moody, a few are always angry and use their kicks powerfully, a couple of them are introverted and stay away from the crowd, just like human beings.”
These Indian breeds, which he bought from different parts of Tamil Nadu, range in age from three to eight years. Most live till 40.
As for the food, they are given CO3 grass, wheat and rice bran, and coconut husk. “They have a 90 feet long intestine, so they have to eat all the time,” says Aby.
Asked about his future plans, Aby says, “I am looking for investors to expand my business.”
Says Sudheesh, “There is a large market for this kind of ointments, especially in Delhi and Mumbai. I have used Aby's products. They are very good. If he expands, he is bound to do well.”