SUSANNE GRUND, BRIGITTE KAUFMANN, MARIANNA SIEGMUND-SCHULTZE, ANNE VALLE ZÁRATE
University of Hohenheim, Institute of Animal Production in the Tropics and Subtropics, Germany
The study aimed at describing the Rendille camel breed in Northern Kenya by differentiating scientifically its locally distinguished four performance types, namely Dabakh, Aithimaso, Godan and Coitte (sorted according to their milk performance level from high to low). The local assessment suggests that there are no differences in body dimensions, but in the ability to maintain a good body condition during dry season, the periods of fodder and water shortage. Thus, focus was on characteristics of body size, body weight and body condition, measuring 461 camels within a 3-month study period. Body weight was estimated based on thoracic girth, height at the withers and rump length. Body condition was determined applying `butcher's grasps', measuring hump size and assigning a body condition score from 1 (poor) to 8 (excellent), based on visual assessment. Body condition was expected to differ most at the end of the long dry season, hence the time this study was conducted. Analyses of variance and chi-square tests were performed in order to test differences between the types. The assumption of no significant differences between types in terms of height at the withers was rejected (p<0.05) except the Aithimaso type which was smaller (p<0.05) in the withers compared to the other three types. Breast width of Godan, another measure of body dimension, was widest and significantly different (p<0.05) to Aithimaso and Coitte. Hump circumference of Dabakh was significantly smaller (p<0.05) than all other types. Body condition scoring revealed further differences between types (p<0.05), supporting the criterion ``drought tolerance' used by the pastoralists in distinguishing their camel types. Thus, even within one breed the ability to maintain a stable body condition is not uniform, but it differs between the different performance types. Body reserves play a decisive role in reproduction and milk production, and, in case of severe drought, even for survival under harsh conditions. It would be useful to include the trait body condition stability as an indicator for drought tolerance in breed characterisation, as it is an important adaptation trait for livestock breeds kept in resource-poor husbandry systems, for which seasonal fodder shortage is an inherent feature.
Keywords: Body condition, drought tolerance, Kenya, rendille camel, type differences