Over the past few decades, camels have regained recognition for their food-producing potential in arid and semi-arid areas of Africa. After having been dismissed as uneconomical, their vital role in supporting human populations in some of the poorest and frequently drought-stricken areas of the world has now been widely acknowledged.
The devastating African drought in 1984-1985 demonstrated that camel ownership can give pastoralists a competitive edge and an excellent chance for survival. Whereas entire herds of cattle, sheep and goats succumbed to the arid conditions, camel populations survived relatively unscathed.
The animal is now proving valuable in providing households with milk during the dry season when cows and goats have been driven to far off areas in search of water and pasture.
Camel milk is used for both human and calves consumption. Camels are milked 1 to 7 times a day.
During early lactation the animal can produce 20 liters per day though only for a short time. Lactation period is 9 to 18 months and variation is brought about by breeds, environment. Milk yields vary with management, plane of nutrition, frequency of milking and purpose of the animal. Production can be as high as 3,500kg per lactation as in Pakistan. In Kenya the Rendille camel out-yields the zebu cattle during the wet season. With selection high yields are possible and potential for breeding camels exists.
Milk is consumed fresh or made sour for storage problems. The milk can be processed for cheese, butter. Camel milk is richer in vitamins A and C than other farm animals.
Traditionally slaughtering is done under most special occasions. Attempts to select for meat traits are common. Average live weight in East Africa is 350 to 450kg and can go up to 550kg. The dressing percentage is better compared to zebu cattle.
Meat quality is influenced by age. The camel meat contain high levels of glycogen compared to cattle meat and therefore sweeter.
- Camel hides
Although not of good quality camel hides are used to make leather products including shoes, saddles, whips.
- Hair and wool
Camel hair and wool in Kenya are of no economic importance being produced in low quantities and qualities.
Camel Milk Benefits
Although it is not in nearly as much supply as cow milk, camel milk has a number of clear advantages over the latter, including more powerful nutrients and better chemical compounds.
Let’s take a more detailed look at the health benefits of camel milk.
- Antioxidant Rich
Camel Milk is rich in antioxidants, which makes it a great remedy for eliminating free-radicals, helping cure afflictions like pigmentation and cancerous cells. This property ensures that camel milk combats oxidative stress. The antioxidant property of camel milk also makes it quite effective in controlling and reducing the symptoms of cancer.
Camel milk has been found to help curb autistic symptoms and even help eliminate autism in some case studies. Controlled studies on autistic individuals conclude that autistic symptoms gradually got better and autistic people turned more docile, less hysteric and less self-destructive. Many studies, though, have been inconclusive and these controlled studies can’t prove how camel milk helps curb this condition. It is believed that the antioxidant properties of camel milk usually help reduce autistic symptoms.
- Diabetes Management
Camel milk has a wealth of nutrients, including insulin, which is an essential component of human health. The balance between insulin and glucose is very important for the prevention of diabetes, making it a natural solution for diabetes. If a steady stream of camel milk is included in the diet, it will eliminate the need for insulin injections. If used as a preventative measure, it can also stop you from developing the disease in the first place.
- Good for Weight Loss
Camel milk is effective in controlling diabetes. Not only because of the different insulin-like proteins present, but also because it is low in fat. The low-fat value means that you will not put on unwanted weight or struggle with high levels of cholesterol. Camel milk is rich in most nutrients and minerals and insulin. The insulin regulates blood sugar and keeps it balanced. Autistic people, or people who don’t want to have too much fat in their food, can opt for camel milk as the perfect solution for their problems.
- Similar to Human Breast milk
Camel milk is nutritionally more similar to human breast milk than to regular dairy milk. For this reason, it has been used around the world as a supplement or replacement for breast milk in cases when mom was unable to nurse or baby needed extra milk.
- Allergic Reactions
Camel milk has been connected to reducing allergic reactions in those who regularly consume it. Furthermore, it does not cause the same sorts of lactose intolerance reactions of cow milk, as it has a significantly different chemical makeup.
Significant nutritional makeup of camel milk
- Camel milk contains a higher concentration of minerals like iron, zinc, potassium, copper, sodium and magnesium.
- It contains higher vitamin A and B2 It also contains more protein than cow milk.
- It contains thrice the amount of Vitamin C than cow milk.
- Camel milk contains more unsaturated fatty acids and essential B-vitamins than cow milk.
- It also contains lower cholesterol than cow milk.
- Camel milk contains a different composition of whey proteins and caseins when compared to cow milk, which is a big reason why it has more healing properties than cow milk.
- It contains a lower amount of lactose which makes it easier for lactose-intolerant people to digest and consume.
- Camel Milk has more effective antibacterial and antiviral characteristics than cow milk.
- Camel Milk does not solidify easily and is easier to digest than cow milk
diseases in camels
Not a lot of work has been done in camel diseases compared to diseases in other farm animals. A normal camel will have:
- Fluctuating temperatures during the day, for example at 6.00am in the morning temperatures range about 36o C and 6.00pm in the evening around 38o C.
- Lower respiration rates than most farm animals.
- A capability to completely close its nostrils. The lower lips appear more pendulous to be able to breath with closed nostrils.
- Vomit frequently because they are easily irritated.
- Trypanosomiasis (or Tryps)
The disease also called surra is transmitted by flies (not tsetse flies) found mostly around river banks and watering points.
It mainly occurs in chronic forms where the animals reduce production and exists as a carrier. Animals in milk reduce their milk yield and frequent cases of abortion for pregnant animals. Affected animals have poor appetite.
Sub acute forms of tryps may last 3 to 4 years. Recovery may occur in some animals and this will depend on whether they are well fed or rested if they are used for work. After recovery the animals acquire immunity. Animals that succumb do not actually die from tryps but due to secondary infection commonly pneumonia because the animals are weak.
Blood checks are done to identify the trypanosomes responsible for the particular diseases. Drugs are used for treatment.
- Internal and external parasites
They cause similar problems as in other farm animals. Internal parasites deplete nutrients from camel which is obtained from very difficult conditions. Traditional camel keepers do not seem to mind about this but treatment should be done. Treatment is as in other animals.
- Camel mange disease
This is caused by mites. The disease is highly contagious and can spread to herdsmen because the mites can be transmitted by contact. Beddings and tree trunks can be other sources of transmission. Camels rub themselves on tree trunks leaving the mites where the next animal may pick.
The disease affects both old and young animals. Infection starts on the head region then spreads to the neck and the rest of the body. Mites prefer certain regions of the body where the skin is soft for example under the udders. The spread can be fast and the whole skin can be affected just within a month.
Affected areas appear swollen, loose hair appear wrinkled. The animals are irritated and look for opportunities for scratching themselves on trunks. Feeding is reduced there reduction in production. Seriously affected animals appear clumsy and blood oozes out of their skin.
Control is by isolating affected animals to prevent spreading of the disease. Disinfect the area where animals stay overnight and remove the roof if any to expose the mites to sun which to kill them. Phenol in water at 5% is effective and clears the mite.
Treatment should aim at killing the mites and promoting healing of the affected animals. Rub affected areas thoroughly then wash with soap. This assists in healing of the affected areas.
Acaricides are used as in other farm animals but dips are not used in this case. Instead the animals are sprayed or smeared. Camels do not suffer from tick borne diseases, however, spray to clear the ticks.
- Camel pox
A viral skin disease especially for young animals between 6 months to 2 years. The incubation period of the virus is 2 weeks after which symptoms of the disease usually frequent diarrhea. Deaths can be fast after signs of diarrhea. Nursing calves attain immunity from colostrum milk if their mothers had suffered from the disease.
The disease attacks camels and the type is similar to the one that attacks horses and pigs. Oedema of skin and difficult breathing due to affected throat, difficult swallowing of food and diarrhea are some of the signs.
The disease can also be transmitted to humans. The animals have high temperatures, elevated pulse rate, swollen lymph nodes, twitching of neck muscle.
Other diseases are tuberculosis, brucellosis, black quarter, pneumonia and tetanus.