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How to rear and make a living from camel farming

By Alex Wachira

Camels are domesticated long-legged mammals with a hump kept mainly for meat, milk and as a means of transport.

Camels consume water economically and use its hump to store fat, which acts as storage in times of food and water deprivation.

Camels drinking water. Camels can withstand long periods of extreme drought without water. Photo: File Standard

Camels are hardy animals that can withstand long periods of extreme drought and still produce milk all year round thriving on little or no water for long spells. 

Camel products

A camel can produce about four times the amount of milk a cow produces which fetches better prices at about Sh80 to Sh300 per litre due to its taste, health and nutritional value.

The female camels (cows) produce about four to 10 litres of milk each day.

A camel farmer with improved feed, water and husbandry they can yield up to 20 litres per day.

Camel milk can be value-added into whole milk, cheese and yoghurt.

It is said to be high in insulin which makes it suitable for diabetics, people with high blood pressure, indigestion, arthritis and lactose intolerant children according to media reports.

Camel urine is also used as medicine by mixing it with milk to make a concoction.

Camel skin or the hide is manufactured and used as a mat to sleep on, make bags and shoes.

Culturally camels are used as dowry to pay the bride price for the most beautiful woman in certain African communities.

In the city, camel owners make extra income by using them to carry people who would like to enjoy a camel ride at a fee.

In Kenya, camels are reared mostly by pastoralists and nomads who move from place to place in search of water and green pastures.

A herder driving a herd of camels. Photo: File Standard.

Pastoralists emphasize that camels have a better meat quality because of its nutritive value and taste.

Camel breeds

Different breeds of camels reared in Kenya include the Turkana which is shorter and has a dark brownish colour, the Somali is white and tall with the males having a broader face and Pakistan which are nomadic.

According to reports in spite of the country’s large population of camels, about two million, the animals are mostly ignored in terms of care, productivity or research, whereas in the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Somalia and Sudan there are dairy farms with modern equipment to increase population, milk and meat production.

Camels are cost-effective as they require meagre essentials for survival.

 

Feeding

Camels can browse different varieties of forages and efficiently utilise poor quality forage such as tree branches and leaves with high crude fibre also in its forestomach.

They consume mainly vegetation in the form of thorny shrubs and herbs with limited tiny leaves note livestockkenya.com.

Camels grazing at Mulango area of Isiolo county. Photo: Mose Sammy Standard

Camels in most parts of North Eastern Kenya can go without water comfortably for about four days and still maintain good production adds livestockkenya.com however they should be given clean drinking water when it's available.

A camel farmer should also give them minerals in terms of salt licks.

Camels body temperature can raise up to 6 degrees Celsius without troubling them seriously and is often under air temperature. They can walk 3-5 days with almost no food notes infonet-biovision.org.

They have a very good sight, and their eyes are surrounded by long lashes to protect them against winds and sand and 34 sharp teeth which allow them to chew almost anything adds infonet-biovision.org

Media reports say Kenya ranks fifth in the world as camel rearing country, with Wajir County that neighbours Somalia, accounting for 51 per cent of the herd.

Somalia has over seven million camels while neighbouring Sudan and Ethiopia have 3.8 million and 2.5 million camel populations respectively.

Breeding

Camel achieves puberty at around one and a half to three years and breeding starts at four to six years. For proper breeding, the ratio of camels is supposed to be one male to ten females.

Pregnancy takes about twelve to fourteen months depending on the breed.  A camel can get a calf every three years.

Camels mature fully and are ready for consumption with a reasonable weight in about seven years adds livestockkenya.com.

Camels can have as many as 15 calves by the age of 40 years.

Pests and diseases

Common diseases that affect camels are foot and mouth, lumpy skin disease, camelpox trypanosomiasis and mastitis which can be prevented by vaccination and controlled by treatment through medicine recommended by a veterinary.

Camels should also, be bathed with pesticides and acaricides to keep off pests such as ticks and flies.  

A herder milks a camel in Mwatate in Taita-Taveta County yesterday. Photo: Renson Mnyamwezi, Standard

 

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