The Food of Camels

The natural food of Old World camels derives from browse, many of these being leguminous trees and shrubs and many being salt bush plants of the family Chenopodiaceous and similar family&. Dromedaries take as much as 90 percent of their diet under semi-natural conditiofrnosm browse plants. In general this is even ore than that taken by goats from this source. An important feature of camels’ browsing habits is that they are not in direct competition with other domestic stock either in termos f the type of feed eaten or in the height at which they eat above the ground. Feeds selected by camels are usually high in moisture, nitrogen, electrolytes and oxalates. Acacias, Balanites, Salsola and Tamarix are important constituents of the dromedary diet wherever these plants are found. Under open range conditions camels tend to move rapidly from one feeding station to the next and they are thus able to exploit a wide variety of plants and of plant

Parts. Ingestion rates can be rapid where preferred or selected browse is plentiful but are much slower on thorny species that have little leaf. Feeding times required may be as much as 15 or more hours per day, as recent studies have shown that total dry matter intake needs to be about 4 per

Cent of body- weight. A mature dromedary weighing 650 Kg. would thus require more than 25 Kg. of dry matter,

Which might represent between 80 and 100 Kg. of total food intake of plants with high moisture contents? In general, it would appear that camels can achieve these amounts of intake provided they are not required to do too much walking to and from the grazing area. The imposition of work obviously restricts the amount of time available for feeding and thus total feed intake. Camels can overcome this problem, provided work is not continuous, by eating in excess of their immediate needs and storing the extra as fat in the hump.

Camels have a normal requirement for minerals, most often which they appear to obtain from their natural regime but where saltbush is not a part of the diet the animals usually have to be taken, at various times of the year, to a salt cure of feed, water or earth. Although minerals other than salt rarely present a problem, disorders can arise in camels from an imbalance in the calcium/phosphorus ratio. A metabolic disorder, own as akrafft, due to this imbalance is well known in North Africa


The dromedary is the subject of myth and legend regarding its supposed water storing abilities. Not the dromedary, nor any other of the camels, contains large quantities of water. Dromedaries are extremely efficient at Storing water because of their physiological, anatomical and behavioral adaptations. Their efficiency in conserving water is, however, in inverse proportion to the use they are allowed to make of these adaptations and the imposition of work or other forms of stress greatly reduces their ability.

The major mechanism of the camel in conserving water is the range in body temperature which may rise by as much as 7″ C during the day. This reduces the need to shed the heat load by sweating or panting and the excess heat is dissipated in the cooler night temperatures without loss of water. By this and other methods camels can go not only for the commonly quoted four to seven days without water but on occasions for several months. Water requirements of camel in relation to body size and normal functions do not differ greatly from other animals. After severe dehydration amounting to 30 percent of the initial body weight, as much as 90.1 of water can be drunk in a very short time.