Sweden is situated in the north of Europe and is one of the beautiful Scandinavian countries. Winters are very harsh, snowy and dark. Summers are bright with long days and a lot of grasses and flowers. Being a co-scientist and friend of camel researchers of Sweden, I visit this country, national veterinary institute (SVA) and country sides time to time. Dr Kerstin de Verdier, a very humble and kind fellow always materializes this tour and helps in exchange of knowledge and research projects.
A visit to meet and look at the camel (camelids) farms in Sweden was the important part of my visit this term (10-19 September, 2012). I visited Bactrian camel farms in the country sides and met camel owners. I was always warmly welcomed by the camel keepers and shared their experiences. The camel owners here in Sweden are hobbyists and they use camels for eco-tourism and ecosystem management. They keep camel as family members and the camels are very obedient and familiar with the commands of the owner. The camel numbers are 2-3 of the individual farm. Here camels enjoy a lot of succulent grasses and abundant water. The camels are healthy and sometimes even overweight.
The problems and constraints the owners shared are some health problems like that of constipation, diarrhea, mange, teeth problem, acidosis, worm infestation etc.
It is a very complex problem. Once a camel (camelid) was treated by the local vet for a long time and it was diagnosed as a bacterial infection. The camel was very weak and near to death and the owner had lost hope of ts recovery. When I had a look at the animal, I noticed constipation with the help of my ethnoveterinary background and offered black tea and some other local things. The camel recovered partially within one hour and completely within two days, and then remained healthy. Constipation usually comes when the camels are shifted from winter hay to rich green vegetation of spring.
Usually diarrhea comes with the spring, when there are a lot of succulent grasses. In the beginning, the grasses have ample of water with low fiber content. Such diarrhea is beneficial and healthy but the farmers are new (with camel experience) with this phenomenon and sometimes worry about it. I think such diarrhea helps in eliminating worms and promote good health.
If there is intermittent diarrhea and constipation and the duration prolongs, then it can be worm infestation. Sometimes, the feces turn black after a while with the sunlight, such sign is also a typical symptom of the worm infestation. In such cases it is hereby recommended to please contact local veterinarian for fecal examination and further necessary action.
Mange is skin problem. It is caused by parasites in the skin. The animal feels itching and rubs the affected part of skin against hard objects. The affected part of skin becomes hard, dry, sometimes black and cracked. The hairs disappear and the skin becomes naked. It usually starts with the hump, base of the neck and shoulders. Humid and rainy springs are more helpful in provoking this disease.
Some tips can be helpful in mange healing and management. Putting ash on the floor in the stable of the camel can help as it paste on the skin of the camel and not allow the mange parasite to thrive on. Sand bath is also very helpful as the camel like to roll in the sand and it helps in cleaning body scraps. Body scraps are inviting factors for mange and other skin diseases. I hereby suggest avoiding using ash and sand in the same time as they nullify the effect of each other in the same time.
Salt hunger and teeth problem
Camel needs more salts as compare to other livestock. Camel relies on salt and thorny bushes in its habitat and live in harsh and hot (also cold like Gobi desert) regions of the world. They need ample amount of salts to recover salt loss because of environmental stresses, its biological makeup and load of work in those regions. The people then misunderstand it with high salts requirements everywhere. In the conditions like that of Sweden, with ample and rich vegetation, salt is not an alarming question. Though still camel needs salts for its unique biological requirements. Provision of common salt can be enough for camel in good vegetation conditions. During the scarcity of lush green vegetation like that in winter mineral can be offer to camel. Ground or pelleted mineral mixture is suggested as stone of mineral can harm camel teeth and camel can get older during a short period of time. Camel do not lick and usually chew, in such conditions stone mineral salt is very promoting of teeth decay.
The camel calves, not well fed with mother milk are very prone to this problem. Their true stomach (abomasum) remains underdeveloped and the rumen part developed more than usual because of the shifting from milk to roughages in early age. Such conditions are helpful in provoking acidosis. Acidosis is well known for its signs as salivation, strong odor from the mouth, diarrhea and sometimes constipation, un-thriftiness, rough wool. Such complex condition provokes worm infestation and cause weakness of the animal. Acidosis is really fatal in camels. The best way is to offer abundant milk to the calf at least for one year. In case of acidosis, calcium carbonate salt is very effective and gradually diminishes this problem. In complex cases local veterinarian can be contacted.
• Camel is a big and strong animal. It is better not to challenge camel and the handler should not force the camel for a command if he/she is not willing. In such cases camel can harm the handler, especially if he/she is alone. Camel is very good in learning if practice in humble way.
• Also, do not stand in front of camel if it is sitting or standing, as camel suddenly extend its neck forward to balance its body. The person in front of camel can be knocked on the face by its’ head.
• As a good practice, try to avoid continuous repeated sitting and standing of camel. It is very stressfully for camel and even can harm its joints.
Camel promotion in countries like Sweden can bring a pleasant breeze as the camel is unique of its kind and attracts thousands of people. The people really love camel in Sweden and want to see it. Camel can be used as a tool for promotion of ecotourism. Camel development can be a crack in the peanut mind of monoculture. The camel is good in vegetation consumption as it likes variety of flora biodiversity, hence helps in landscape management. The camel feet are soft like cushion and do not harm the vegetation and soil fertility. Camel can be a tool of collaboration among south and north of the world. The experience of the pastoral peoples with camel in the south can be used by the new herders in the north and bring friendship and understanding. Use of camel can bring back and strengthen the diversifying of farms and their income. Camel is a good tool for recreation for the kids with mental retardation and autism etc. Camel milk can be another luxury and useful for health and wellbeing of people.