Production system, Phenotypic and Molecular Characterization of Sudanese Camels (Camelus dromedarius)

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Ali Ishag, Ibrahim
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The main objectives of the present study were to describe the conditions of camel production systems in Sudan and identify the breeding goals, husbandry practices and production constraints. A second objective was to characterize and describe some of the Sudanese camel ecotypes on the basis of their morphological traits. The study also aimed at identifying the allelic variants of the growth hormone (GH) gene in Sudanese camel ecotypes and estimating the correlations between body measurements and DNA polymorphisms of the GH gene. A set of detailed structured questionnaires were used to collect information from 103 camel owners in some camel breeding areas (Sinnar, Gedaref, Gezira and North Kordofan states). The majority of camel owners in Sinnar, Gedaref and North Kordofan states indicated livestock breeding to be their main activity, while camel owners in Gezira state considered both livestock and farming to be their main activity. Sales of animals were important for obtaining regular cash income, in addition to sales of agricultural crops in the case of those who practiced crop production. Milk produced was used only for home-consumption. The serious production constraints as defined by camel owners were lack of feed, disease prevalence and water shortage. The priority of camel owners with regard to genetic improvement was to produce dual purpose animals for meat and milk production. Second on their list of priorities were meat animals and last were dairy animals. Racing ability was given a low priority. Phenotypic measurements and description data were obtained on 274 camels from ten ecotypes. The results showed that average barrel girth, heart girth, height at shoulders and body weight were 2.45 XI ± 0.02 m; 2.02 ± 0.01 m; 1.90 ± 0.01 m and 463.25 ± 4.90 kg, respectively. The results also revealed that phonotypic measurements were significantly influenced by type of camel and age group. The Shanbali camel recorded the highest values of barrel girth, heart girth and body weight, followed by the Kenani camel. Rashaidi, Annafi and Bishari camel breeds recorded the lowest values. Moreover, the results showed that the ssex of camel significantly affected the heart girth, height at shoulders and body weight; and the males had significantly higher (P < 0.5) values than females. The phenotypic measurements data concluded that the Shanbali and Kenani camel breeds are the largest Sudanese camel breeds followed by Maalia and Maganeen camels. At the molecular level the study dealt with the identification of allelic variants of growth hormone (GH) gene and estimation of correlations between body measurements and DNA polymorphisms of the GH gene. The comparison of Sudanese camel GH sequence with that of the GenBank sequence identified one single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the non coding region (intron 1) in position AJ575419:g.419C>T. A PCR-RFLP method was used to genotype 181 animals for the detected SNP. Bishari and Anafi breeds that are classified as riding camels had slightly higher T allele frequencies (0.57 and 0.48, respectively) than those of the other four breeds which are classified as pack camels. The effect of genotype with regard to the SNP g.419C>T on the body measurements was not significant (P>0.05). In the light of the study findings the shortcomings of the traditional classification of Sudanese camels were outlined and a new classification suggested. Recommendations for genetic improvement of camels based on the study findings were given.