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The digestive system of a camel allows it to survive on fibrous feeds of low-quality nutrients. Camels are browser animals, which can feed on easily digestible diets. Camels do not require a lot of energy like other ruminants. In addition, they also have effective systems for recycling nutrients.
Camels can also engage in physical activities like racing at high speed just like other animals. They have advantages based on low energy requirements, supply of glucose, low need for oxygen, and dependence on muscles that rely on aerobic metabolism.
This essay focuses on the nutritional requirements of a camel in order to win the prize during a race.
Camel racing is a popular game in the Middle East. Camels usually cover distances of five to 40 kilometers. Naturally, camels do not run. Instead, the pace can sustain “average speeds of 35 to 40 km/hour” (Kempton, 2007). They also have the ability to run at a speed above 40 km/hour. Nevertheless, they experience the challenge of exhausting easily.
Kempton argues that camels are pseudo-ruminants, which have the capacity to race at similar speeds to horses, for longer distances, and longer periods (Kempton, 2007).
Nutrition for the camel
Camels operate in dry and harsh environments, which have allowed them to digest most of the foods than other ruminants. Browsing enables a camel to select feeds of high quality. However, Ellard suggests that there is a lack of sufficient data on camel nutrition (Ellard, 2000). As a result, most data come from studies of other ruminants (Wilson, 1989).
The dry matter intakes of camels are usually lower than other ruminants. Camels’ consumption of body weight in the form of dry matter is 1.7 percent. This is lower than in horses and cattle, which consume above three percent. About 70 percent of dry matter requirements for camels are roughage. Camels have high rates of digestibility. The ability of camels to digest a lot of roughage is due to the existence of micro-flora. Micro-flora can facilitate the digestion of roughage and enhance the recycling of urea.
Diet for the camel during the year
Camels need balanced diets throughout the year. The diet should consist of protein, oil, fiber, carbohydrate, and other energy-giving foods. Roughage is the main source of diet for camels. It mainly comes from fresh alfalfa. Camels get most of their energy from barley. However, barley may subject them to indigestion, dysfunction of the rumen, and colic (Bhattacharya et al, 1988).
Diet for the camel during and after the race
According to Manefield and Tinson, a proper diet for a racing camel should consist of “10 kg of alfalfa tops, three to four kg of soaked whole barley, one kg of dates, two liters of fresh milk, hay, electrolyte, vitamin, and mineral supplements” (Manefield and Tinson, 1997).
Based on the digestive system of camels, energy foods do not readily provide immediate energy needed for muscular activities during the race. Camels also cannot maintain vigorous muscular activities for long. Thus, the main issue is to feed camels to generate sufficient energy needed for vigorous racing activities.
Tropical oils readily provide the energy needed in a race. These may include coconut oils, which are rich in fatty acids. Fatty acids readily get into the digestive system and provide energy during metabolism.
The aim of feeding a camel is to enable it to perform fast like a horse. This implies that camels must feed on digestible energy that can supplement energy from roughage to allow them to engage in high-intensity activities like racing. Highly digestible energy comes from grains and digestible fibers. However, these cause indigestion and temperament in camels. There are suggestions to use dietary starch, which consists of digestible fiber, and oil feeds (Kempton, 2007).
Camels in the race need the energy to compensate for vigorous competitions, which demand high amounts of energy within a short time. Thus, the energy supplied must yield high levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Such activities make camels demand a continuous supply of energy to maintain muscle activities. ATP is the only source of energy for muscle performance.
Oils provide the best source of energy for feeding camels. This is because oils can eliminate cases of metabolic disorders arising from grain feeds. However, not all oil products have similar tendencies. Oils with a long-chain composition such as maize, soybean, and canola also have abilities to disrupt metabolic activities in camels. Lymphatic can slowly digest and absorb these oils and transport them to the liver for metabolism. In this regard, such sources of oil energy are not the best for providing energy for racing.
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On the other hand, saturated oils like coconut oils do not result in metabolism cases among camels and other ruminants. These because such oils contain low levels of free fatty acids (FFA). In addition, coconut oils have medium fatty acids (MCFA) that go directly to the liver through blood systems. Thus, such oil feeds are responsible for the necessary energy camels need to win a race.
After the race, camels should take feeds with lipid in order to compensate for energy lost during the race. These are mainly carbohydrate foods, which provide the best balance for lactate metabolism and accumulation of lactic acid (Kempton, 2007).
Bhattacharya, A.N., Al-Mutairi, S., Hashimi, A. and Economides, S. (1988). Energy and protein utilisation of lucerne hay and barley grain by yearling camel calves. Anim. Prod., 47, 481-485.
Ellard, K. (2000). Development of a sustainable camel industry. Western Australia: RIRDC publication.
Kempton, T. (2007). Nutrition, diet, feed and feeding the racing camel. Media Room: Scientific Articles, 10, 1-2.
Manefield, W. and Tinson, H. (1997). Camels: a compendium. Sydney: University of Sydney.
Wilson, R. (1989). The nutritional requirements of camel. Options Méditerranéennes; Série Séminaires, 2, 171-179.