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In order to produce milk, the female must be successfully mated and a calf must be born alive. The young calves can be a source of meat, especially those young males which are considered unsuitable for breeding. Old males and unproductive females are also a source of meat. Wool is produced as a natural insulation against the cold, being discarded in the heat, and hides can be tanned.


Camel meat is not universally eaten. In the pastoral communities camel meat is only eaten on special occasions. These include festive gatherings following the return of the herd from grazing (Hartley, 1979), and ritual celebrations (Dahl and Hjört, 1979; Dickson, 1951). In some cases animals belonging to a certain tribe will not normally be slaughtered as they have been named and are considered to be an integral part of the tribe (Gast, et al., 1969). This does not prevent people from such tribes from stealing and eating camels from neighbouring tribes.

The camel is a good source of meat in areas where the climate adversely affects other animals. The male dromedary carcass can weigh 400 kg or more (Knoess, 1977). The carcass of a male Bactrian can weigh up to 650 kg. The carcass of a female camel weighs between 250 and 350 kg.

Data collected from a herd numbering about 4 300 animals showed that the body weight of slaughtered animals averaged between 439–484 kg (Keikin, 1976). This was more than the weight of 400 kg previously given (Knoess, 1977). The total meat production of the herd was 530–650 metric tons. It is obvious that the meat yields depends on the age, sex, feeding condition and general health of the animal (El-Amin, 1979). Not only the yield, but also the taste of the meat is determined by these parameters. Camel meat tastes like coarse beef (Cloudley-Thompson, 1969; Dickson, 1951). In old animals the meat is tough and not tasty (El-Amin, 1979). The cut of meat also determines its tenderness (Abdal-Baki, et al., 1957), the hump being considered a delicacy (Dickson, 1951). It is eaten raw, while still warm, but after it cools down it is boiled before it is eaten (Hartley, 1979). The hump, together with the fat of the prenephric and premesenteric areas are an important supplement to the human diet. As the animals get older, so the moisture and ash content of the hump fat and around the kidneys increases, while the crude fat content decreases (Shalash, 1979). It was found that there was more crude fat in the fat tissue around the kidneys than in the hump. The brisket, ribs and loin are other preferred parts of the carcass (Hartley, 1979).

The dressing percentage of the carcass varies between 52 percent and 77 percent; the fat between 0 and 4.8 percent; and the bones between 15.9 and 38.1 percent (Shalash, 1979; Kutznekov, et al., 1972). There is a difference in the percentages of protein, water, fat and ash of meat from various parts of the body (Shalash, 1979). The age of the animal also affects the components of the meat. Camels younger than 5 years have less protein, fat and ash than older camels. Nevertheless, these relatively small amounts of protein are comparable with the protein content of beef whether it is from bull, cow, or steer. The fat and ash content of camel meat is lower than that of beef.

Meat of the llama, alpaca and guanaco is of high quality and is a highly prized commodity (Bustinza, 1979). Meat production by far surpasses the utilization of milk of these animals. The meat is high in protein and low in fat, as in the case of old-world camels (Parades and Bustinza, 1978).

Sadek (1966) showed that the use of camel meat for sausage making eliminated its toughness. The meat is easily cured, and the high protein content provides good caloric value. They are also cheaper than sausages made from other meat. Camel meat can be preserved by cutting it into strips and allowing it to dry. It is then preserved by putting the dried strips in clarified butter fat (Hartley, 1979).

In northern Kenya camel blood is consumed as it supplies necessary iron, salts and other essential nutrients (Dahl and Hjört, 1979). The high vitamin D content of camel blood is invaluable in aiding bone formation (Shany et al., 1978).

At present, more camels are being slaughtered in those areas where there is less output from other livestock to guarantee dietary protein intake (Wilson, 1978). As pastoral societies disappear with the conversion of the nomad to a sedentary way of life, the camels are being sold and slaughtered (Gohl, 1979). In Libya there is a brisk meat market (Bulliet, 1975). In Sudan, although there are legal restrictions concerning camel meat, there is a large export market to Egypt (Asad, 1970). Camel meat from Sudan is also exported to Libya and Saudia Arabia (El-Amin, 1979). In Egypt camel meat makes up an important part of the dietary proteins especially for the lower income groups (Shalash, 1979).

Hair and wool

Camelidae living in the high-altitude regions of Peru, Bolivia and Argentine have wool of excellent quality (Bustinza, 1979). The wool of the vicugna is especially highly prized. This wild species, living in the high Andes, has very short wool, 2 to 3 cm long with an average yield of only 150 gr per animal. The fine internal fibres are brown-yellow, and the coarser external fibers are brick red giving an overall red appearance. The vicugna also has a large hank of fibres growing on the chest which are longer and stronger than the fibres on the rest of the body. These chestfibres are light-yellow to white in colour. The ponchos and shawls made from vicugna wool are highly prized and very costly.

The guanaco is found in the valleys of Patagonia. The body is covered with two types of wool; very fine internal fibres which are light brown, and coarser and longer external fibres which are red-brown in colour. The head is covered with short black hair. The young have an especially fine pelt.

The llama also lives in the heights of the Andes. These animals give about 2 kg of wool per animal per year. The fibre is long and coarse. It has a variety of colours, black, brown and white, often all appearing on one animal. The wool is used for making string bags or sacks, blankets and clothing.

The alpaca is an animal of great economic importance. The wool is an important item of this animal. There are two types of alpacas, the Huacaya and the Suri which are easily differentiated by their wool. The wool fibres of the Huacaya are rough with a well-defined crimp. This wool is very similar to sheep wool and is easy to dye. The wool grows perpendicular to the body and forms compact staples. The wool of the Suri, on the other hand, is completely different and is of coarser quality. The fibres are shiny and smooth and have no crimp formation. The wool is not easily dyed. The wool grows parallel to the body, forming lank, round staples that fall from the body leaving a line down the middle of the back.

Much research has been done concerning the fibres of the various animals. This has been well presented by Bustinza (1979). The fibres are affected by age and sex as well as by nutrition and diseases.

The production of wool and hair of adult animals ranges between 1 kg (El-Amin, 1979) and to 5 kg (Keikin, 1976). The wool and hair of the oldworld camels is of lesser quality and value than that of the new-world camels. The Bactrian gives more wool than the dromedary and its wool is also of a higher quality (Dong Wei, 1979). Wool is shed at the end of winter, and if not gathered, the animal rubs itself against trees and bushes until the wool is discarded. In China about 1 500 tons of wool are collected per year. This wool is used for making padded cloth, quilts and mattresses. In addition to the wool, there is long hair that can also be sheared. This is used for making rope. The hair from the dromedary is used for making clothes, tents, carpets (Cloudley-Thompson, 1965), robes, saddle-girths and blankets (El-Amin, 1979).


Camel hides are used for making shoes and sandals. The hide of the dromedary is not good quality, and is mainly used for making whips and saddles (El-Amin, 1979). Hide is used to make a gourdlike container for water and milk. The skin of the vicugna is highly prized and can bring in US$ 1 000 per skin (Bustinza, 1979). The guanaco has a skin of good quality and, among other things, is used for making bed covers, coats and mantels. Llama hide is used for making shoes, sandals and bags.

The meat, skins and furs of the new-world camels are thus far more important for man than the milk and haulage ability of the old-world camels. Nevertheless, the food producing characteristics of the desert-living camel, in respect of both milk and meat, are complemented by accompanying yields of wool, hides, skins and bones, which all help to provide man with clothing, shelter and other useful products. When breeding for the ideal milk producer, the meat, as provided by the calves, and the wool can supplement local industry. As with beef, the most economical age for slaughter, and the age of the animal having the best-tasting meat must be determined. This will quickly reverse the misconceptions regarding camel meat which are mainly due to the slaughter of aged animals that have outgrown their usefulness.

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