Pregnancy and parturition in dromedary camels I. Factors affecting gestation length, calf birth weight and timing of delivery.


Emirates Industry for Camel Milk and Products, Farm and Veterinary Department, PO Box 294236, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Electronic address: [Email]


In the present study, we evaluated the role of genetic, physiologic and environmental factors in affecting gestation length, calf birth weight and time of parturition in dromedary camels. Reproductive data were collected over a 10-year period at the world's first intensively managed, large-scale camel dairy farm. We hypothesized that environmental conditions (i.e. photoperiod) have a decisive effect on these reproductive parameters. The effect of various factors was tested with linear mixed models and variance component analysis. A total of 557 (13.1%) primiparous and 3691 (86.9%) multiparous parturitions were observed in 2,123 dromedaries. Parturitions had a pronounced seasonal distribution. The mean (±SE) length of gestation and mean (±SE) birth weight were 384.5 ± 0.17 days (n = 4,093, CV = 2.88%) and 34.5 ± 0.09 kg (n = 3,909, CV = 16.8%), respectively. All but one fixed factors (type of breeding) affected length of gestation and calf birth weight. Month of conception (27.1%), female camel (11.2%) and live-dead status of the calf (10.6%) were responsible for close to 50% of the variation in gestation length. At the same time, female camel (30.3%), parity (11.3%), year (6.9%) and month of parturition (6.2%) had the strongest relative influence on the variation in calf birth weight. Both reproductive traits showed a pronounced circannual variation. Mean length of gestation was longer by app. 18 days in dromedaries conceiving in November compared to those becoming pregnant in May. Average new-born weight was 4.4-4.9 kg higher in December compared to that in September and April. Dromedaries gave birth throughout the 24 h period, but most of the deliveries (n = 3,117, 74.1%) occurred from sunrise to sunset. The peak of deliveries was between 2 and 3 pm. Month of the year has a strong effect on the timing of deliveries. In contrast, the time from sunrise to parturition did not differ among the months. Peak of deliveries occurred 7-9 h after sunrise and the median of time from sunrise to parturition was 8 h and 24 min. These results give strong support to the original hypothesis. Seasonal changes were independent of nutritional factors, were associated with climatic conditions (i.e. photoperiod) and may reflect an endogenous circannual rhythm in foetal development. The dromedary camel could be a useful in vivo model to study the effect of the environment on feto-maternal communication, fetal development and timing of parturition.


Birth weight,Circannual rhythm,Delivery time,Dromedary camel,Gestation length,Season,