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CAMEL BIOLOGY

REPRODUCTIVE CHARACTERISTICS

Seasonal sexual activity occurs in both the males (Bulls) and females (Cows). Increasing daylight is believed to activate the breeding urge.

FEMALES

Sexual activity can commence at 2-3 years, however the first calf is not normally born until the cow is 5 years old. Breeding continues on an average every 2-3 years until the cow is 20 years old. The average cow produces 8 calves. Pregnancy length depends on the season, (food availability, stress, etc.) Varying from approximately 374 days (12.5 months) to 419 days (14 months). Ovulation is induced by coitus (mating) and the average cycle is 27 days.

MALES

Bulls become sexually mature at 3-4 years. In Australia mature bulls commence rutting around August to October. The rutting bull will return from the bachelor herd to dominate the cowherd and any other males in the area. Alternatively he will drive off some of the cows and establish his own harem. The length of an individual Camels rut varies from 2-4 months depending on, his nutritional state and dominance. Periods of rut are nutritionally and physically demanding and severe weight loss occurs. This has the effect of ceasing the rut of that bull and consequently several dominant bulls are active throughout the breeding season. Scattered small cowherds reform into large herds at the end of the rut.

GROWTH

The birth weight of calf is between 30-40 kg. Weaning weight at 1 year is about 150-180 kg, and mature weight is 500-600 kg. on average, reached at 6-7 years.

The weights of mature Camels processed at the Wamboden Abattoir, Alice Springs, have ranged from 514-635 kg. for bulls and for cows 470-510 kg. Animals of an estimated 5 years of age had a live weight of approximately 340-430 kg.

FEEDING HABITS

Camels are browsers, with a split upper lip well suited to this purpose. They are normally selective feeders and eat the freshest vegetation available. In a study carried out by Doerges and Heuckes, on Newhaven station, they observed the Camels ate 81.5% of the available plant species. Grasses are eaten primarily after rain, and before herbs and forbs are available. At times when the moisture content is high Camels can exist for several months without drinking water. They do however perish in drought, where there is no surface water and the moisture content of plants is low.

 Wild Camels are mobile feeders and frequent remote salt lakes where plants high in electrolyte and moisture are present. (Calandrina sp, Portucla sp.) . Domestic or yard fed Camels need a diet high in bulk. They are quite adaptable to the gradual introduction of supplementary and pelletized food to their diets. In the wild, or feral state they search for plants high in salts. In a yarded situation access to salt is thus considered essential.

HEALTH

Australia is free of most of the serious diseases of Camels. Quarantine restrictions imposed during the import period, 1866-1907, effectively prevented the introduction of, surra, foot and mouth, and other major diseases. Importation of Camels into Australia ceased due to the detection of foot and mouth in camels headed for Australia from Pakistan in 1907.

The main disease problems are mange (scabies), nasal bots and abscesses due to Corynebacterium sp. Test on several hundred, controlled and uncontrolled Camels at the N.T. Government Veterinary Laboratories showed that both, the wild and local herds are free from, Tuberculosis, Brucellosis, Trichomoniasis, Vibriosis, Johnes' diseases and Liver Fluke.

The above information was condensed from a report, STRATEGIES FOR DEVELOPMENT, prepared by the Camel Industry Steering Committee for the Northern Territory Government. 1993. Resource information appears in, APPENDIX II on Page 57, of this document.

CHRIS O'HORA, EDITOR

WACO NEWS LETTER MARCH/ APRIL 1994

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