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Camel herds' reproductive indicators and rearing practices' effects on their profitability

Srairi M.T., Moutik F.Z., Alary V., Ramdane A., Benidir M., Julien L., Huguenin J.. 2018. In : Sghiri Abdelmalek (ed.), Kichou Faouzi (ed.). Recent advances in camelids biology, health and production : Proceedings of the 5th conference ISOCARD 2018. Laâyoune : ISOCARD, p. 470-472. Conference of the international society of camelid research and development ISOCARD 2018. 5, 2018-11-12/2018-11-15, Laâyoune (Maroc).

The reproductive performances of camels under desert environments are poorly documented as most of the studies have been conducted in different conditions, mainly research stations (Faye, 2018). This study aims to evaluate the main reproduction parameters of camel herds in the area of Mhamid El Ghizlane as well as to assess the husbandry practices and their effects on profitability. The study was conducted in three administrative communes, downstream the Draa valley (Zagora governorate, South East Morocco). A retrospective analysis of 63 camel herds' reproductive performances was carried out, according to the 'twelve-month' method of Lesnoff (2009). The study revealed that adult females comprised about 40.6% of the total 1929 animals surveyed. Reproduction performance was rather poor, characterized by long calving intervals (an average of 2 years), late age at first mating (3 to 5 years), and an average calving rate of 50%. Mortality rate in calves (birth to yearlings) reached an average value of 5.4%, mainly reported in suckling calves, with diarrhea as the principal cause of these deaths. Since we distinguished three herds' sizes (number of animals), we realized that there were no marked differences among the herds. The abortion rate was higher in medium and large size herds (respectively 8.3 and 9.7%), meaning that in small herds (4.9%) more attention was devoted to pregnant females to avoid reproduction failures. The average lactation period was around one year, with a mean milk yield of 3 liters per day. Milk was only sold by one camel farmer, while the others expressed difficulties to deliver milk from remote desert areas to the nearest cities (Mhamid El Ghizlane and Ouarzazate). Most of camel sales are made locally to avoid transport expenses. Feed is the most expensive single cost, mainly to purchase local feeds such as cull dates. The average annual cost per herd is about 1090 Euro. The feed cost is followed by off-farm wages (268 Euros) and by veterinary treatments (4.5 Euros per herd per year). The main income is from camel sales, whereas milk sales are negligible. Camels are often kept with other livestock such as goats and sheep. However, livestock do not provide enough income to cover households' expenses, forcing camel farmers to look for additional incomes to ensure the livelihoods of family members. It was concluded that many problems characterize camel productivity in the Mhamid El Ghizlane area including the low conception rate and high abortion and mortality. The low productivity results in low incomes, which negatively impact on the livelihoods of local inhabitants. Several research questions remain with regard to the cultural roles of camel breeding as well as its resilience, given its lack of attractiveness to young generations, as it represents a harsh activity with limited remuneration.

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