A description of the pastoral Camel production system in Moyale District, Kenya
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A description of the pastoral camel production system of the camel keeping pastoralists of Moyale district is presented. The study focuses on herd management, identification of production constraints and explores opportunities to improve productivity through management measures which are applicable under the prevailing production conditions. Greater emphasis is placed on calf, health, nutritional, reproductive and breeding management aspects. The necessary data on traditional husbandry practices and progeny career histories for breeding females were collected through different questionnaires which were established and tested. 56 herders were interviewed using semi-structured management questionnaires giving room for descriptive and quantitative i~formation. For determining reproductive efficiency, 416 breeding females - with at least 1 parturition - were "interviewed" through separate life history questionnaires. These provided a total of 1208 records used in the analysis. Multistage sampling were used for the primary sampling units (locations) and secondary units (camps). Individual breeding females were chosen through simple random sampling procedures. The data was coded, processed and analyzed using the Panacea data management computer package (Pan Livestock Services Ltd., 1986). Being a descriptive study, the results were presented as descriptive statistics of means, standard deviations, frequency distributions, percentages and/or absolute numbers. The respective percentages of respondents allowing calves access to initial colostrum, attend calvings, splitting herds (home/nomadic), supplementing salt, and owners allowing inbreeding were: 25, 96, 57, 70 and 69. In addition, 98% of the respondents claim to see their camels chewing bones (an indication of poor mineral nutrition). The home-based camels were more frequently watered. Serving bulls were kept in the herd for an average of between 4.5 and 7 years. Age at first calving and calving interval reported in the questionnaires were 57.4 ± 12.8 (n=296) and 27.3 ± 9.3 (n=528) months respectively. Trypanosomiasis, paralytic conditions, swollen lymphnodes, pneumonia and purulent conditions were identified as the major health problems in adult camels. The major calf health problems include ilgoff (unidentified calf disease), diarrhoea (scours), camelpox, skin necrosis and mange. The results also revealed that 85% of the respondents experience inadequate veterinary services due to lack of access to drugs and veterinarians. 15% use only traditional treatments while 45% combine modem and traditional treatment methods. Deworming is rarely done. Tick control is through hand-picking and change of pasture among other traditional methods. Acaricide is rarely used because of its limited availability. Rampant abuse and misuse of human and veterinary drugs in the treatment of camels, without regard to disease, dosage, or potency was observed. A bioeconomic computer herd model PRY (Baptist, 1992) was used to estimate a productivity index for camels at the current state of the system. As a measure of overall productivity, the index "Total Output Value (TOV)/Dry Matter Intake (DMl)" is calculated. The system was evaluated in monetary terms. The ratio of TO V and DMI, which is the "economic feed energy efficiency", was estimated as Ksh.4.33 /Kg DMl per animal-year. Based on the results of a 40% reduction in the unit produce value of culled surplus female youngstock and male youngstock, it was revealed that offtake of animals as young as 14 months is an improvement for the production system. The model results also revealed that the most efficient culling strategy for breeding females is to ensure they do not exceed 276 months (23 years) in the herd. From the results, it was clear that some pastoralists were more sophisticated than others, in knowledge and husbandry practices. Consequently, possibilities for knowledge transfer both to and amongst the pastoralists on topics responding to their needs exist. Overall, the study reveals that there is potential for improvement of productivity using simple techniques in calf management, mineral supplementation, health care programmes, and breeding management. Hence, action to improve traditional camel production systems; including research in certain disease conditions that afflict camels in Northern Kenya; is urgently needed.