Date of Award:

1989

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Natural Resources

Department name when degree awarded

Range Science

Advisor/Chair:

Thadis W. Box

Abstract

In Somalia, camel (Camelus dromedarius) survivability and milk production has been higher than for other domestic livestock and contributes substantially to the subsistence of Somali pastoralists. The objective of this research was to study management, foraging behavior and nutrition of camels in their natural habitat to determine how production continues under seasonal nutritional stress.

Management systems of Ceeldheer pastoralists are based on available natural pasture and water. The natural rotation grazing system maintained an ecological equilibrium in the District.

Pastoralists manipulate their herds to suit existing environmental conditions, family needs and labor availability for herding. In herd management, control of breeding males and preferential treatment to increase the female component of the herd are geared to secure continuous milk supply for the family.

Camels were watered only in the dry seasons. They foraged continuously throughout the day the first few days after watering, but foraged mostly in the morning and evening as watering days approached. The quantity of water camels consumed in summer and winter dry seasons were similar.

In winter, milking camels foraged more, travelled shorter distance and rested less than dry ones. In fall, 1986, and spring, 1987, lactating camels spent less time foraging than non-milking animals. Foraging time was the same for both groups in summer 1986, 1987 and fall, 1987. Camels spent more time chewing bones in summer of 1986 in Xarar foraging area than other seasons. Low or high relative humidity together with hot temperature apparently reduced foraging time, increased rumination and idling times in winter and spring seasons.

As forage availability declined, camels ingested a broader array of dietary items in the dry seasons and consumed large amounts of herbaceous plants. The diets of milking and dry camels were similar. Lactating camels consumed more green forage than dry camels in the dry seasons. Shrubs and trees comprised major components of the diets (80.9%). Physical structures of plant species did not prevent feeding on the plants.

Camel diets were rich in crude protein (cp), calcium (Ca), potassiuim and sodium. Phosphorus (P) was deficient. Ca:P ratios were extremely low. Neutral detergent fiber and acid detergent lignin were high. CP intake seemed adequate year round assuming camel protein requirements are similar to other livestock requirements. Digestible energy was deficient in dry seasons. Low energy intake, inadequate phosphorous availability and water deprivation were probably responsible for the weight loss of camels as the dry season progressed.

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