Because the mobs of camels are scattered and the mob size is often small it is often necessary to accumulate two or more mobs into one and then herd them over considerable distances to yards for capture. Any systems to improve the chances of locating mobs of camels and improving their subsequent capture are financially beneficial. Spotting camels from the air especially after spotting for cattle requires a period of adaptation. Camels blend into the country better than cattle and are hard to find until the mind accommodates the change. If you or your pilot are used to mustering cattle then you have a considerable advantage as the putting together of the mob and their subsequent herding requires experience. Camels run in a manner similar to horses rather than cattle. This means that you manoeuvre the herd from further away than cattle. Bull camels in rut will fight and can disturb the herd so leaving them out or dropping them off is advisable. Once the travel distance increases the herd will try to separate so the closer the yards the better. If there is a natural barrier it is possible to start the herd trotting along the side of the barrier and then leave them to collect others. Regular checks are required to ensure that the herd stays together.
The Advantage of portable yards is the ability to take them to the feral camels and thus reduce the distance they are herded. The disadvantage is that they are not as strong as fixed yards and don’t contain all the facilities of fixed yards. To rectify these disadvantages the design of the yard needs to be such that it will take the initial pressure when the yarding first occurs and then can be modified to allow drafting, loading onto trucks etc.
Portable yards need to be set up in a location that prevents the camels from seeing them until it is too late for efficient evasion.
Yards should have 100 metre long wings of hessian or similar material to help contain and direct the camels during the final mustering process. A figure of 8 yard design is recommended for the initial capture. The gate areas must be firmly attached by pickets so that the back receival yard stays erect if the herd pushes the back yard out of shape. Vehicles must quickly support the yard panels in the receival yard once yarding is complete as the pressure on the yard may lead to it breaking.
Yards must be designed to allow drafting of the herd. Drafting off mature bulls from cow/calf herds must occur as soon as possible after capture. Unwanted camels are to be either released immediately or destroyed by a humane method.
Loading of drafted camels onto trucks via a portable loading ramp is sometimes difficult.
Covering the base of the ramp with sand to deaden the noise of walking will assist. Modifying the shape of the portable yard to have a long forcing yard also assists. It may be easier to dig the truck into the sand so the camels can be loaded directly on to the truck. Individual camels can be assisted onto a truck by the use of a rope placed around the rump.
The advantage of the fixed yard is that the facilities are better designed to accept and manage the camels. The disadvantage is that the camels must be herded to the yard. Cattle yards are capable of being used for camel handling with a few alterations. These are:
- height of race walls should be increased to 1.8 metres
- height of bows over race and the gate slides increased to 2.4 m
- metal loading races should be covered with dirt to lessen the hollow sound.
Floors of yards, sheds, pens and loading ramps must have surfaces that minimise slipping. Camels should spend as little time as possible confined on hard, abrasive surfaces that can cause injury to the foot pad or wearing of the pedestal and kneeling pads.
Holding yards must be designed without protruding objects to minimise injury and be large enough to allow all animals to lie down. If the yards are for holding for more than one day they must be large enough to enable adequate exercise, and provide access to clean water.
A trap yard can be set up around a watering point and the camels can be trained to use the yard over a period of weeks. This is done by closing the trap over a series of days. This allows them to get used to the feeling of the trap on their ribs. Once trained, camels use a trap without concern and educate others to walk through it. A disadvantage of trapping is that camels may not need water for long periods. This can be partially overcome by offering attractive foods e.g. salt licks or hay.
The capture is then easy both on the camels and the handlers. Trapping tends to minimise stress and is a preferable method of mustering.
Mustering by Horses or Motor Bikes
This process is similar to the mustering of cattle. Coacher camels assist the movement of feral camels and should be used both in the mustering and the yarding process.
Mustering by horses tends not to stress the camel and is another preferred method of mustering.