Herd Structure

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Herd Structure

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Camels are social animals, keeping camelids solitarily is not species-appropriate.

For the formation of a camel group, gender, age and constitution (body weight) of the animals is important. In the wild camels live in same sex herd structures, preferably with individuals of similar age. In Europe camel herds often consist of just 2 or 3 members which reflects only a limited species-appropriate herd structure.

Usually castrated males and females can be kept together without any problems. If there is a great difference in age and constitution of the animals, some points need to be considered: young camels are highly active, they need other young camels for playing, running and interacting. Older camels however often like their tranquillity and prefer to have a moment`s rest from the young ones.
Adult males need special attention. Out of season, generally in summer, they are usually quiet and can be kept together with other members of the herd. However, with the beginning of the rut, about November, they start to become moody and often even aggressive. Their „full combat alert“ often increases with age and is basically threatening male conspecifics but sometimes even humans. During this period of time it is recommended to separate the rutting male or to keep him together with those females which are about to be inseminated. Often the rutting male behaves aggressive towards young calves or subadult males, which complicates a joint keeping. Additionally aspects of job safety should be considered. During the rut several adult males can only be kept together when females are absent, both by vision and by smell. The rut is not necessarily linked to the winter. Caused by year-round good food supply prolonged rutting periods increasingly appear.
If the size of the herd allows it, it is essential to establish a mother-calf group and keep it until the calves are weaned. After weaning the young camels should be kept together in an infant group. Here they can play and run and grapple together without disturbing the adults.

Age of weaning: Free ranging camels under natural conditions are usually weaned at about 15 months of age. With domestic camels of course, the nursing period can be shortened due to optimum nutrition, although this seems to be unfavourable for the social development of the calf. To make things worse, in Europe just weaned calves are often sold and transported to other areas to be integrated in a strange herd. Such calves should be weaned as late as possible. If in contrast the calves are kept in an infant group in the vicinity of the adults, weaning can take place earlier.
Under good future husbandry conditions calves can be weaned at about 1 year of age. Otherwise the calf should stay as long as possible with it`s mother in the maternal group.
To avoid too early weaning at least camels younger than 15 month of age should never be bought of a professional dealer but directly at the authorized breeder. A buyer who has no optimal husbandry conditions for just weaned calves should keep his calf temporarily at the keeper of it´s mother.

At the age of 2 to 3 years camels can be integrated into adult groups without any problem. From the age of 4 to 5 years a camel is kept according to it´s gender respectively it´s use (i.e. stallion, mount, brood mare). Only at the age of 7 years a camel ist fully adult.

Important: Each camel is individual, it behaves according to it´s nature and on the base of it´s experience. Camels have a high degree of social adaptability, this is why it`s behaviour under kept conditions can be quite various. For example: not every adult male turns to be aggressive during rut, castrated males can show features of rutting behaviour, individual camels can be permanently aggresive or some adult females cannot tolerate other calves. Consequently at each group composition the indivual characters need to be considered and individuals should be integrated into suitable groups.