Before going into the detail of milk of camel, let us know something about camel and the historic background associated with it. Camels, popularly known as the “ship of the desert” support the survival of millions of people around the world in arid and semi arid regions. They are known for their remarkable ability to exploit the scarce resources available in the desert and are well suited to live under extremely hot harsh climatic conditions, where the available water is very less.
Camels are used as pack animals which are capable of carrying up to 600 kilograms of weight on their back. They are also used for riding and draft purposes under desert conditions. Moreover, they are known for their meat, good quality hair and hide. Apart from this, they also provide valuable milk through out the year in quantities which are greater than animals living under similar conditions.
Camels are known to have evolved millions of years ago in North America. Later, they migrated to other parts of the world during the late tertiary period. The camel family known as “Camelidae” belongs to the order Artiodactyla (even-toed ungulates) and suborder Tylopoda (pad-footed). The family camelidae has two types of camels called old-world and new-world. The old-world camels belong to the genus of Camelus with two species viz. Camelus dromedaries (popularly called one-humped camel) and Camelus bactrianus (otherwise known as two-humped camel). The new world camels belong to the genus Lama and this genus consists of three species viz. L. guanicoe (the guanaco), L. peruana (the llama), and L. pacos (the alpaca). The other genus Vicugna has only one species viz. the Vicuna. The camelids, which are seen more often in the areas of South America, are better adapted to the specific adverse environments of cold atmosphere and relative lack of oxygen.
Milk of Camel
Like cow, camel too has a four-quartered udder with four teats. But the teats are not as long or thick as that of cow and resemble somewhat that of the heifer teats. Hand milking is the common practice with camels but machine milking are not uncommon in some of the countries like Kazakhstan, India, Mauritania, Arabia Saudi, Egypt and Russia. Milk yield of camels in different regions vary widely depending on quality and quantity of forage, frequency of watering and milking, age of breeding, climate, parity, calf nursing, presence of the calf, milking method (hand or machine milking), health, reproductive status, and individual merit. The milk of camels and is given in the following table.
Milk Yield of Camels in different countries
||Daily yield in kg
||Milk yield in kg
|Dromedary - Africa
|Dromedary – Asia
Under wild conditions where there is no consistent milking frequency and the calves are allowed to suckle the mother throughout the lactation, the accurate estimation of milk yield is difficult. The presence of calf and its suckling can’t be overemphasized in the let down of milk and it is known to most of the camel herdsmen. Camels whose calves survived past weaning had mean daily yields 65% higher than camels whose calves died before weaning and the mean lactational yields were 2.9 times higher.
The nomads of the Egypt believe that if the calf dies the camel will stop lactating and not accept any other calf to suckle her and without suckling, the camel can’t be milked well and in most cases, there is a failure in let down. Further, the milk serves as the sole food for the newborn calf because of problems in the availability of drinking water.
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