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Camels

Camels are found in Africa and Asia and are kept mostly by nomads. There are two species of camels: one-humped Arabian camels or dromedaries (Camelus dromedarius) – the camels of the plains; and two-humped Bactrian camels (Camelus bactrianus) – the camels of the mountains. Camels are raised for milk, meat, fibre (wool and hair), transport and other work; their dung is used as fuel. Milk is often the most important camel product and is the staple food of nomads. When nomads move in search of pasture, they can live for up to a month in the desert on nothing but camel milk. Camels can produce more milk from poor feed than any other dairy species. In northern Kenya, for example, camels produce far more milk than cattle. There is growing recognition of the value and benefits of camels for their milk, meat and fibre. Camel dairy products could not only provide more food for people in arid and semi-arid areas but also give nomadic herders a rich source of income.

As camel milk is normally produced under low-input, low-output systems, five litres a day is considered a decent yield. Lactating camels generally produce between 1 000 and 2 700 litres per lactation in Africa, but camels in South Asia were reported to produce up to 12 000 litres per lactation. Camels reach the maximum yield in the second or third month of lactation and produce milk for between eight and eighteen months. The daily milk yield during the wet season is often twice that of the dry season. The lactation curve of dairy camels is similar to that of dairy cattle, but camels have more persistent lactation. Arabian camels generally have a much higher milk yield than Bactrian camels and are being used increasingly in intensive dairy operations. 

Did you know?

  • Camels are kept for milk production in Africa and Asia.
  • The global camel population is estimated at 35 million head. 
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, camels contribute about 5 percent of total milk production.
  • Somalia is by far the largest camel milk producer in the world, followed by Kenya and mali.