Dairy Camel ~ Transforming from Desert Ecosystem to Modern Farming
The old world camels (Dromedary and Bactrian) are well adapted to the harsh (both cold extreme and hot extreme) and hostile (deserts with scarce water and feed availability) ecosystems of the northern hemisphere of the globe. The centuries-long evolution and adaptation (selection for traits of choice by pastoralists) process made it unique and highly resilient animal to the calamities of its ecosystems. The pastoralists (traditional Institutions) managed and validated precious indigenous knowledge of camel husbandry, behavior, welfare, products development & management, breeding & neonatal care, health and recreation in the course of history while facing many challenges. The camel was mainly used in that period (pre-historic to the automobile) as a beast of burden (wars, pastoral transportation, desert accessibility etc), while milk, meat, and other products were used as by-products (additional asset).
The onset of automobile industry replaced (the intensity increased with the modernization and abundance of the automobile) the role of the camel as the beast of burden. This evolution resulted from camel to turn to its original task ~ The Milk. The thin/ smart and light camel types (mostly from desert) desert were selected for racing and riding. Camel racing – (a multi-million dollar industry in the Middle East) evolved and a set of racing norms along with rules and regulations came into being. Today UAE is home to this joyful sport and camel with racing traits are attracting million of AED annually.
The heavy camel with clear body confirmation, well-confirmed udder, milk vein etc is selected for milk production and use as dairy animals. Again a modern dairy industry is co-evolving towards a modern camel dairy in the Middle East. As camels have roots in Arab culture, both types of camel activities (racing and dairying) are developed and established in this region with the dry ecosystem. I really do not know about the challenges being faced by the racing industry, the hurdles in the dairy industry are much obvious and easy to establish. Selection for dairy traits (its heritability) is still a dream in the emerging industry. The breeding goals for this purpose are not yet established and practice.
This shift from the old to modern camel agriculture resulted in many challenges. One of the main constraints of the modern (confined dairying) is the intensive environment (housing, feeding, milking and breeding etc) which bring many hurdles like fatigue/weakness, craving/weakness, mastitis and welfare, infertility etc. Selection for body/udder confirmation is hardly practiced while selecting/buying a camel for a dairy purpose which leads to difficulties in milking and handling in the modern milking parlor.
Camel feeding is another constraint, especially in confinement. The Scientific approach is seldom practiced in this regard. In most of the cases Alfalfa or another type of hays along with some TMR and mineral mixture. I think the camel needs more (some unidentified fectors~as camel have special physiology) as camel had evolved with the unique feed requirements. Author documented more than 50 plant species as like/feed by camel in free-roaming feeding system of Suleiman Mountainous Region of Pakistan. Narrowing the diversity of feed items may cause/enhance the issues like fatigue, mastitis, and fever etc. Camel nutrition (dairy) is the utmost need issue and need further scientific research and practice.
The combination of narrowing diversity of feed items, confinement and stress (parlor along with the intensity of treatment) invite complex ailment situation which affects both the animal itself and probably the products consumers. Such challenges need to be addressed technically and scientifically with the course of time. A strange and painful factor (hiding experience) has been noticed among the camel dairy technical practitioners as they avoid to share knowledge. Some technical personnel and scientists do not want to share their experience and knowledge to keep their position strong and important. Institutional support is lacking and research institutes prioritize cow dairy and other fields (with more research articles and subject material). University level subjects related to the camel and its modern role must be incorporated for the students of the region. Institutional support in all aspect of modern camel farming is the pivotal part of camel development. The author has suggested a scientific session on modern camel dairying and its challenges in the next ISOCARD conference (2015 Kazakhstan).