Bactrian Camel Care
Basic Management of camels in general is not much different than many other types of traditional livestock. One must remember that camels have been domesticated for centuries and have many redeeming qualities, including; riding, fiber, draft, and in some places even meat and milk. Bactrian Camels are from the Himalayan Mountains in Asia and are acclimated to cold weather. In fact these animals thrive in our cold Michigan winters. It is the heat that our animals dislike.
This information is what has worked on our farm. I am neither an expert nor a veterinarian and I do not claim to be one. If you have problems with your animals consult a licensed veterinarian immediatiely!
Bactrian Camels are two humped camels and in their wild form are indigenous to Asia. They are also referred to as Old World Camelids. They are members of the Camelid(ea) family and are related to llamas, alpacas, guanacos, and vicunas. However, the Bactrian's closest relatives are Dromedary (one-humped) Arabian Camels. In fact, Dromedary and Bactrians can crossbreed producing fertile one humped progeny in the first cross. Bactrian Camels are much more rare than Dromedary Camels and supposedly only several hundred exist in the United States today. Wild Bactrians are an extremely endangered specie.
Cattle terms are used in the camel world. Males are called Bulls. Proven females are referred to as Cows. The young are called Calves. A Heiffer is a young female.
The dispositions of our animals is part of the fun of raising these animals. Bonnie is a complete sweetheart and loves to put her muzzle right up to your face. I don't think that has a mean bone in her body. Emma is not as cuddly as Bonnie and is much more strong minded than Bonnie. Emma will often get excited jump about and kick. Eugene seems very lovable and has an appetite like no other.
Housing & Fencing
Housing that is ample for a horse or cattle is acceptable for Bactrian Camels -- shelter that is adequate for these animals to get in out of the elements when they desire is necessary.
The type of fencing that we have used for years on our farm for cattle has proven capable of containing our females. We have 5 strands of high tensile wire as a perimeter to our pasture, with only the top, middle, and bottom wire electrified. The perimeter fence is about 4 feet tall. Our entire pasture is broken down into several smaller pastures, in fact our two female camels are kept in with only two strands of hot wire. Our animals seem to completely respect our electric fence. Our adult bull, Eugene is contained by a 7 foot fence with seven strands of electrified high tensile fencing and we have had no problems keeping him confined.
Eugene has a run in shed for a shelter, but he seems to prefer sleeping outside so he can keep an eye on his girls in the other pasture. We keep our cows in a different pasture than our bull, not for their own good, but for our's. As a dominant animal Eugene would do anything in order to stay between us and his girls. Since we enjoy spending time with our females, we thought the best practice would be to put him in his own pasture.
Feed & Nutrition
Our Bactrian Camels are fed a 12% protein basic equine sweet feed. We also provide free choice salt in the granular form, as its easier for the animals to consume in this form than in block form. Bactrian Camels require an exorbitant amount of salt and some have claimed they require ten times mor salt than cattle. Wild bactrians, which are one of the most endangered species on the planet, are supposedly the only mammal that can and will consume salt water. Of course, fresh water is a must.
We also feed virtually free choice grass hay with minimal amounts of alfalfa, as too much alfalfa can and will cause diarrhea and gut ache. Treats are given daily in the form of cookies and crackers, with each animal having their own distinct preferences.
This is the first year that we administered vaccines to our camels. They were each give Colostridium Perfringens Types C and D and Tetanus Toxoid. They also received a Rabies Vaccine and West Nile Virus Vaccine.
Our animals seem to be fairly easy keepers, except for parasites. Camels are extremely susceptible to parasites. Whipworms/Strongyles can wreak havoc on camels and will be a constant problem if not dealt with properly. With the help of our local veterinarian and a veterinarian from Ohio State University we have decided on only worming our animals when necessary, after a fecal exam has been completed in eight week intervals.
Safe Guard and Panacur contain a chemical known as fenbendazole and can be a very effective treatment against Whipworms/Strongyles. At one time it was effective in our camels at 2-3 times the recommended dosage, however a resistance was gradually built up in a couple of our animals. We recently lost a pregnant female from complications brought on by resistant parasites and she was given nearly ten times the recommended dose of Safe Guard. We have since wormed our animals with Levasole (recommended by Dr. Anita Varga from Ohio State University) and it has proven to be effective thus far.