Animal husbandry covers a variety of subjects which have direct or indirect impact on the final product.
Breeding, feeding, housing, disease control and care all affect the growth and production of animals. Husbandry has been based on superstition and practices handed down by father to son over the ages. Customs regarding the ownership of camels; who is allowed to graze them; and even watering have been ingrained in the culture of the various nomadic people (Gast, et al., 1969; Hartley,1979; Mares, 1954).
Camels are mated for the first time at the age of 3 - 4years (Rao et al., 1970; Farah, 2004). The sexual cycle of dromedary camels begins at 24 months (Puschmann,1989), camels are seasonal polyoestrous animals and the ovulation of the female dromedary is induced by copulation or the presence of a male (Wilson, 1984). The mean gestation period is between 315 - 360 days (Puschmann, 1989) up to 370 -375 days (Rao et al.,1970; Fazil and Hofman, 1981; Arthur, 1992). Knoess etal. (1986), working with camels under intensive management, concluded that calving intervals of 18 moare possible.
There are different breeds used for different purposes like riding, burden, meat or milk production(Burgemeister, 1974). Dromedary camels are bred on a large scale in most countries of the Arabian Peninsula as camel racing has a high socio-economic importance in the Arabian even African countries where a new industry developed. For example approximately 200.000 racing camels exist in the UAE. An average racing camel can participate in races until the age of 6 years and more (Snow, 1992; Haydn-Evans and Werney, 1995). The Bactrian camel is also used for providing milk, meat, hides and wool as well as being a mean of transport (Chapman, 1985). Camels are disease-tolerant, drought tolerant, easily domesticated, and efficient converters of feed and water to meat and milk. Therefore, the use of the dromedary camel as a source of food and revenue should permit the pastoralist and rancher in arid areas to reduce their total dependence on higher risk livestock enterprises.
The one-humped Bedouin camel, either alone or together with sheep and goat husbandry, offers one possibility to combat malnutrition in perennial drought areas. The members of the Camelidae are to be found in various areas of the world. The value of the smaller members of the family and the two-humped Bactrian camel is to be found in wool, hides and transport. Milk does not play a significant role in the economic importance of these animals. Nevertheless, the Bactrian camel is of importance in parts of Russia, where they are kept fairly intensively and are even machine milked (Kuchabaev et al., 1972). The Arabian camel was domesticated because of its potential value as a source of milk (Epstein, 1971). What makes the camel so special in the deserts and semi-deserts is its ability to survive the severe drought conditions by many, and varied, physiological mechanisms. Although other ruminants have large quantities of water in their digestive tracts, as is needed for normal digestive processes, their water turnover is far greater than that of the camel (Macfarlane,1964; Macfarlane and Howard, 1970). This low water turnover enables the camel to graze relatively far from water sources and to replenish losses in a very short time (Yagil et al., 1974). Although water is an essential part of an animal's diet, the camel can survive long periods without drinking, and then replenish the loss in a very short time (Schmidt-Nielsen, 1964; Yagil et al., 1974).
Nevertheless, water needs are dictated nor only by the climate, but also by feed (Gautier-Pilters, 1979). Whereas lambs and calves must have drinking water, even during the period before weaning (Stephenson et al., 1980), the young camels can subsist on their mother’s milk alone (Yagil and Etzion, 1980a, b). Therefore, water resources when limited, can be utilized far better by camels than bother animals. In hot and dry areas buildings do not have to be necessarily solid brick, but should have suitable roofing, enclosed by a solid fence to prevent animals being stolen or breaking out a water and feed trough and an area for milking, examination and treatment.
The mechanisms that enable the camel to go long periods without water are those which allow for a low rate of water loss and a high tolerance to dehydration (Gauthier-Pilters, 1979). Even though body weight losses of 40% can be found, camels only stop eating after more than a third of the body weight is lost. The rapid replenishment of losses (Yagil et al., 1974) and the fact that the camels do not muddy water supplies mean a far more efficient utilization of water (Dahl and Hjort, 1979).
The same mechanisms allow the dehydrated, lactating camel to produce diluted milk (Yagil and Etzion, 1980).However, water supplies must be readily available as a herd of camels will drink large amounts in a very short time, so that slowly drawing buckets of water from a well will not suffice.
There is a direct relationship between the cultural habits of man and camel holding (Mares, 1954). The nomadic life is a consequence of the need to search for grazing. With the decline in this way of life the social structure of the nomadic community is changing. In traditional camel raising the entire community is together during the cool season, but much time is spent with the camels in aiding mating and calving (Dahl and Hjort,1979). This is the time when meat and milk are plentiful and access to water and pastures for the animals is easy.