The general color for camels is light brown; however, through selective breeding, we have established a color gene that produces white offspring, which is extremely rare and in great demand.
We are constantly learning new camel breeding and birthing techniques used in the industry. We are one of a few breeders who successfully uses intrauterine rotation if a fetus is breached. We also use a squeeze chute so the vet can safely and securely palpate a pregnant female and perform ultrasound at the same time.
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Males in Rut
Males are not mature until four to five years of age. A bull’s period of peak fertility is known as rut, which for the Bactrian occurs during the cooler months of November through May. The dromedary bull can be at peak fertility throughout the year. Unique to the dromedary bull is the dulaa, an Arabic name for the inflatable and balloon-like pinkish-red mucous membrane that he expels from the side of his mouth during rut. The Bactrian camel does not have a dulaa.
Both Bactrian and dromedary bulls froth at the mouth during rut, and the Bactrian generally stands with back feet widely apart while urinating and slapping urine on his back with his tail.
Both species of bulls have poll glands on each side of the neck. During rut, the glands produce a blackish, foul-smelling secretion that is reputed to attract females.
Periods of rut are nutritionally and physically demanding, and severe weight loss can occur because of increased activity and lack of appetite.
The male mounts the female when she is in the cushed (kneeling) position. Mating (or mounting) takes 10 to 20 minutes. One male will usually mate with five to seven animals, although energetic males can mate with up to 70 females in one season. In one day a male can mate two to three times with up to three females.
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Females are mature at approximately three to four years of age. Interestingly, they are coitus-induced ovulators, and therefore do not have a true oestrus cycle. Their peak sexual receptiveness occurs from November to March in the Northern Hemisphere. If their nutritional intake is optimized, they can be receptive year-round.
The female will show a desire to mate for three to four days during the breeding season. During this time she becomes restless, separates from the other animals, and shows vulval swelling and a mucous discharge. When a male approaches, she rapidly moves her tail up and down (known as flagging) and may void urine.
Gestation for the dromedary ranges from 370 to 405 days, with an average of 385 days. Average gestation for the Bactrian is approximately 400 days.
Signs of pregnancy are a dropped belly, vulval enlargement, enlarged mammary glands with the presence of milk, carrying the tail in the horizontal position, frequent urinating, not eating, and frequent cushing, rising, and rolling. When one or some of these signs is present, we isolate the female from the rest of the herd. We like to be present during birth in case of difficulty. First-time mothers may take longer to give birth than experienced mothers, requiring more supervision.
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During actual birth, the front feet appear first, and then the fetal nose appears with the head resting on or between the front legs. The mother does not bite through the navel cord; neither does she lick and clean her baby. In fact, she is the only mammal mother who does not clean her baby. Following birth, we remove the epithelial membrane from the newborn. The umbilical cord will have separated during birth, but we tie it off, shorten its length, and then apply iodine to prevent infection.
The size of the newborn camel depends on the size of its parents but, in general, weighs from 70 to 100 pounds and measures approximately 4 ½ feet from ground to hump. The hump may be flat at first but will perk up in no time. A newborn usually stands in 30 to 60 minutes.
The newborn will generally begin to drink its mother’s milk in about 1 or 2 hours. Sometimes we need to physically move the calf to the udder because it is necessary for the calf drink the mother’s colostrum within the first 12 hours in order to acquire necessary immunity. This is very important. If the baby does not drink from its mother after 4 to 5 hours, we will milk the mother and will feed the baby from 16 to 24 ounces of the colostrum-laden milk. If we are unable to obtain milk from the mother, the baby then receives colostrum intravenously.
We do not customarily bottle-feed babies. We believe the baby will be healthier and happier if left with its mother. The baby will learn camel behavior and will be able to adjust to life in a herd more easily if left with its mother.
Occasionally, however, we will need to bottle-feed a baby if the mother is unwilling or unable to provide milk. When this occurs, we usually wait at least 4 hours after birth, and then we give the baby approximately 8 ounces of goat’s milk in a regular baby bottle with a nipple that has been slightly widened.
We bottle-feed the baby with goat’s milk for the first week and then use this formula: 1 quart goat’s milk, 1 1/2 gallons of equal parts milk and Half and Half, and 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt. All ingredients are poured into a gallon container and shaken. Newborns are fed every 2 hours. We gradually reduce the formula to just whole milk at about 2 months. As the baby grows, we lengthen times between feedings.
Baby camels imitate adult behavior and will often start to eat hay within a few days, sometimes before they have teeth. A baby camel can usually be fully independent of its mother at 5 months of age; however, certain calves can be weaned as early as 3 to 4 months of age. We generally wean a calf at approximately 3 to 4 months of age if we know the calf to be healthy. At this point, continual feeding by the calf can tend to decrease the size of the mother’s hump, which is an indication that the baby is ready to be weaned.
After weaning, a calf who is already eating hay will be fed a small portion of Calf Manna® (by MannaPro) every day for up to 6 months if the calf’s humps (Bactrian, in this case) do not stand upright.
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