Brochure developed by “Altweltkamele e.V.” (status: December 2017)
In the wild camels feed on dry grass and thorny shrubs. Their digestion is consequently adapted to this type of food, which has to be considered for their food supply. Their daily basic diet consists of rough food, water and salt and as dietary supplement as needed selenium and vitamin E. With these supplements both an undersupply as well as an oversupply needs to be prevented. The main food is rich in crude fibre, i.e. hay, straw, green fodder and if applicable haylage. The amount of fodder per day and animal as a guideline is 5-10 kg of dry rough food. As food for sustainment (dry matter) about 1% of body mass is calculated, when the animal is working this amount comes up to 2%. Thus a camel of 500 kg body mass obtains for instance 5 kg hay per day in winter for sustenance and 10 kg hay per day when it is working. Hay: Hay rich in fibre should be preferred. If necessary fine hay can be mixed with straw. With animals with increased energy demand various sorts of hay with different nutritional values can be offered ad libitum. Besides hay straw should always be offered, the best is straw from barley and wheat. Straw for camels is always a filling and nutritive rough food. Green fodder: In the countries of origin green food is usually available only for a short time per year. This food ressource is used by the animals to restock their energy reserves. Green food for camels is therefore a natural and very popular food. Both walking on the meadows or giving cut green food is possible. With rich green meadows the walks should be limited, for example to 2 hours per day, poor meadows can be used unlimited. Giving straw especially with young green food is categorical to ensure the intake of crude fibre. Leaves/Branches: They belong to the normal food spectrum of camels. They are usually rich in nutrients, tasty and favoured. They contain various ingredients like bitterns, minerals, essential oils, tannins, alkaloids and glycosides. Same as various herbs leaves and branches of some plants can be poisonous. Camels don`t necessarily avoid all poisonous plants! They do for example feed on common ragwort. Healthy and favoured however are beech, hornbeam, birch, lime, oak, maple, willow, poplar, ash and hazel. Minerals/Salt: They are absolutely necessary as food supplement, white or himalaya salt licks are preferred. Red mineral licks however should be avoided to prevent excessive supply. Suitable are salt licks for sheep or cattle - but caution needs to be taken with salts or supplements containing copper. Camels need only a very small amount of copper, excessive copper is stored in the liver and metabolised only slowly, which can lead to copper poisoning. The actual need of copper for camels is unknown. Soft food like apple, carrot and field mangel are preferred by the camels, although it should not be fed too often due to the relatively high sugar- and energy contents. The same applies to bread. Additionally there is the danger of blockage of the pharynx. Concentrated feed: Usually camels don`t need any concentrated feed. It should only be fed in exceptional situations, as the high energy and protein supply may cause sickness. Exceptions for giving concentrated feed maybe sick animals or lactating females in poor condition. In such a case the following concentrated feed or alternative fodder are possible: Oat/squeezed oat: Oat is rich in crude fibre and low in nutrient content, rich in vitamine E and fat. It contains polyunsatured fatty acids and is high in amino acids lysine and cystine. As oat also is rich in protein some care needs to be taken. Bran/wheet bran: is rich in iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium; the vitamines thiamine B1, riboflavin B2, B3, B5, B6, folic acid B9 and vitamine E. Camel pellets: should have a high content of crude fibre and a low content of protein and energy. Haylage: is rich in nutrients and vitamines. Haylage can be fed additionally to hay and straw. (Please consider the danger of listeriosis when haylage is polluted). Haycobs: are a mixture of more than 60 species of grass and herbs. They are rich in crude fibre, natural vitamines and trace elements, free from dust, mildew and treacle. Water: Camels like to drink water several times a day, when they have got the chance. It can be offered ad libitum, at least once a day a camel should drink. Camels are quite tolerant towards changing feeding times and amounts of food, but as creatures of habit they prefer a regular feeding. Several small noshes a day are better than one substantial meal, the longer the animals are occupied with feeding, the better. At least once a day a camel has to be fed. Main feeding mistakes in Europe: - Overfeeding: Camels are always hungry, as due to their nature they need to built up reserves for periods of drought. - Lack of crude fibre, for example when they feed exclusively on the meadow with young grass. - Excess of carbohydrates and protein due to additional feeding of concentrated feed, fruit, vegetable and bread. - Lack of minerals, vitamine E and selenium.