The clinical signs of disorder known locally as “emaciation ailment” in Bactrian camels in Haizi, Qinhai, China were defined. They included pica, emaciation, dyskinesia, deprived appetites and anemia. We found that concentrations of copper (Cu) in soil and forage from affected and unaffected areas were similar, but the concentrations of sulfur (S) in soil and forage were significantly higher (P<0.01) in affected than in unaffected areas. Concentrations of Cu in blood, hair and liver from the affected camels were significantly lower (P<0.01) than those in unaffected camels. Fifty affected camels grazing on affected pastures were consuming an average of 136 mg of Cu/d for 80 d by a free-choice, salt-based trace mineral supplement. Liver Cu increased over time in all camels. However, the mean Cu content of the liver was significantly lower in the camels supplemented with salt-based trace mineral as compared with those in the healthy camels at the end of the study. Twelve affected camels were removed from the affected pastures and allocated to one of two treatments for 80 d, consisting of supplement providing 136 mg/d of either inorganic (Cu sulfate; n = 6) or organic (Availa-Cu n = 6) Cu. Liver Cu increased over time in all camels regardless of treatment; however, camels treated with Availa-Cu have higher mean liver Cu contents than those receiving Cu sulfate (163.6 ± 13.5 and 228.9 ± 26.7 µg/g, for Cu sulfate and Availa-Cu, respectively) at the end of the study. Mean Cu content in the liver of camels received Availa-Cu was significantly higher than that in supplemented camels with Cu sulfate. In all treated camels, some signs of recovery were evident in 20 - 30 days after, and appetite and vigor were improved. Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that ailments of camels in the Haizi area are caused by a secondary Cu deficiency, mainly due to high sulfur content in soil and forage.
Key words: Bactrian camel, sulfur, copper, deficiency, “emaciation ailment”.
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