We have found that camels do well on a diet of good quality alfalfa hay and oat hay. Grain such as corn or oats can be supplemented as necessary. In various parts of the US, crops will vary, but these are the crops available in our area of northern California.
In the wild or feral state, camels search for plants high in salts. In a yarded situation, therefore, access to salt is thus considered essential. They need as much as 140 grams (5 ounces) of salt every day, six to eight times as much as other livestock. Salt can be provided in free-choice loose form or in blocks. We keep 50-pound salt-mineral blocks available at all times. Some of these blocks also provide selenium, which is also exceedingly important for camels.
Insufficient selenium levels in a camel can cause death. Make sure to check with your veterinarian about this important requirement.
Because pastures in our northern California area are selenium-deficient, we provide hay that has been tested to contain selenium. We also give a 6cc injection of Bo-Se ® Selenium/Vitamin E (by Merck) to our newborn camels and once a year to our adult females. Pastures in other areas of the country may have sufficient selenium and therefore newborns may not necessarily need this injection.
According to Dr. Jeffery O. Hall, DVM, PhD, a mineral expert at the Utah State University Diagnostic lab, there’s a fine line between selenium deficiency and selenium toxicity. He explains the best ways to provide selenium and suggests having a camel’s blood analyzed twice a year for appropriate concentrations. Dr. Hall’s article on selenium supplementation is available to read at this website link: http://camelphotos.com/selenium.html
We suggest that you show this article to your veterinarian for best interpretation of selenium requirements for your camel in your area.
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Worming and Vaccinations
Camels need routine worming and vaccinations. Your local veterinarian can help with specific recommendations for your area. Our procedures are outlined below.
Semiannually our camels receive injectable ivermectin (by multiple manufacturers) or Cidectin ® (by Boehringer Ingelheim), but we never use the same wormer twice in a row. We also routinely obtain lab results of fecal samples.
West Nile Virus Vaccine
Once every year our camels receive the West Nile virus vaccine. Available from numerous manufacturers.
Every year our camels receive “8-Way”, a broad-spectrum vaccine against eight clostridial diseases (EIV, EHV-1, EHV-4, VEE, EEE, WEE, tetanus, and WNV in various combinations). Blackleg, red water, overeating disease, and tetanus are all clostridial diseases. Available from numerous manufacturers.
Every year we administer the CD/T vaccine for the prevention of enterotoxemia (overeating caused by Clostridium perfringens types C and D bacteria) and for long-term protection against tetanus, as all animals are at risk for tetanus following infection through wounds, castrations, etc. Available from numerous manufacturers.
Bo-Se® Selenium/Vitamin E
Our adult female camels receive an injection of Bo-Se® Selenium/Vitamin E (by Merck) once a year to ensure sufficient selenium levels. Our newborns receive this injection at birth.
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We find camels to be relatively easy to raise and to breed. Although the desert is their natural environment, they adapt easily to almost any climate. Slippery surfaces are a concern to them. In extremely cold or rainy climates, they should be provided with at least a three-sided shelter. In such climates, they will grow a much longer and thicker winter coat than they would in the desert. However, they should have protection from cold rain and wind.
Because camels browse and graze, fences must be strong enough to withstand their weight when trying to reach whatever may be on the other side. Our fences are 6-foot-high tube steel, and we provide welded wire attached to tube steel to protect mothers and their newborns from coyotes and other predators.
Clean water should be available at all times, and water reservoirs should be cleaned routinely because camels do not like to drink dirty water. Also, clean pens and feeding areas are important in minimizing flies, which bite and also spread disease. Our pens are frequently cleaned, and an automatic fly-spray system intermittently mists each pen as well. We also routinely walk our pastures to check for objects that could be harmful if stepped on or ingested.
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