Genetic improvement in dromedary camels: Challenges and opportunities
This expert opinion (PDF) by Frontiers in Genetics states that camels have large potential but genetic improvement is required. Adaptation to a hotter climate is vital for future livestock as heat stress can extremely reduce their productivity, health and fertility. Camels have developed the ability to produce meat, milk and fiber in the hottest environments in the globe. Due to their unique physiology and in light of climate change impact on ecosystems, camels are poised to be an excellent candidate species for production. Camels can not only contribute in boosting food security but also in job creation, poverty alleviation and economic diversification. Camels also have a slow metabolism resulting in less feed requirements compared to other ruminants, resulting is less methane production. However, to harness their potential, an improved understanding of the genetics underlying their unique biology is needed. They need to undergo genetic improvement for production but also health traits. Little communication and collaboration is currently practiced between farmers, due primarily to competition. A challenge concerning camel farming is that there are relatively few published studies in the area of camel genetics. Moreover, countries harboring most of the camel population are in different development stages pertaining to agriculture and infrastructure development. Another challenge is the difficulty in disseminating superior genetics due to the difficulty of performing Artificial Insemination. A final hurdle is that camels’ meat and milk production are generally more expensive than other milk and beef. It is therefore challenging for small scale producers to survive without government subsidies and support. Added value products need to be produced and smart marketing strategies need to be adopted to increase the value of camel products and hence improve producers’ profitability and alleviate their dependence. In conclusion, camels have a large potential that is underutilized due to technical, logistic, political and economic challenges. However, these challenges are not insurmountable.