The Importance of Camel In Semi Arid Region

Pashu Sandesh, 16 Feb 2024

Abhishek Sharma1, Maskare Rahul Mahavirprasad2, Anisha3 , Sarita Mahicha4

1,2 MVSc Scholar, Department of Animal Nutrition, PGIVER, RAJUVAS, Bikaner

3,4 PhD. Scholar, Department of Animal Nutrition, PGIVER, RAJUVAS, Bikaner 


Camel is considered one of the most important and ecologically harmless domesticated animals in the dry regions of Asia and Africa. Camels have considerable economic importance not only as a draught animals but also for their milk and its by-products. They can produce a significant amount of milk from poor feed as compared to any other dairy species. This characteristic, in addition to the growing recognition of the economic value and health benefits of camel milk, makes it a centre of attention for people, particularly in arid and semi-arid areas. Furthermore, the relevant studies describing the microbiota of camel milk are included.

KEYWORDS: Camel, Importance, Milk, Semi-Arid.


Camelids play a key role in the culture, economy, food security and livelihoods of communities in Andean highlands and the arid and semi-arid lands in Africa and Asia, including Indigenous Peoples. Even in extreme climatic conditions, they continue to produce fibre and nutritious food.

The United Nations has declared 2024 the International Year Of Camelids. The decision has been taken to highlight the significant importance of camelids in the lives of people across the world. The objective of The International Year of Camelids 2024, "The International Year of Camelids 2024 aims to build awareness of the untapped potential of camelids and to call for increased investment in the camelid sector, advocating for greater research, capacity development and the use of innovative practices and technologies. According to the official website of the Food and Agricultural Organization(FAO), camelids influence the lives of millions of households in more than 90 countries. As a group Camelids include alpacas, Bactrian camels, dromedaries, guanacos, llamas, and vicuñas which together help in ensuring food security, nutrition and economic growth, especially for Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

Camelids play an important role in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) envisaged by the United Nations. Camelids are a source of milk and meat which helps people fight hunger. They also provide fibre which can be used for clothing and shelter. Geographically, the camel is distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical dry zones of North Africa, western Asia and northwest India. The limits of its natural distribution are determined by wet climates and the presence of the tsetse fly. The camel is the ideal domestic animal in deserts with long, dry, hot periods of eight months or more and scarce, erratic annual rainfalls between 50 and 550 mm.

The camel is used for several purposes for which its role is essential. It is used as a beast of burden for transporting goods and people as well as for providing milk. Milk is often the only regular food source for its owners. The camel's meat, wool and leather are also widely utilized. The camel is universally highly valued and provides social standing for its owner. The chief role of the camel relates directly to its remarkable adaptation to extremely harsh conditions. It can flourish where no other domestic animal can survive. This exceptional ability is the result of several anatomical and physiological characteristics. Where green forage is available in mild climates, the camel may go several months without drinking. Under very hot conditions, it may drink only every eight to ten days and lose up to 30 per cent of its body weight through dehydration (Yagil and Etzion, 1980; Yagil, 1982; Wilson, 1984; Yagil, 1985; Ramet, 1987).


The camel possesses inimitable characteristics which enable them to survive in extreme desert conditions.

  • Water Conservation

Desert-adapted camels have evolved physiological adaptations that reduce the amount of water lost or can tolerate significant amounts of water loss. Where green forage is available in mild climates, the camel may go several months without drinking. During the winter and cold seasons of the year, camels can go without water for months. They do not even drink when offered water. Under very hot conditions, it may drink only every eight to ten days and lose up to 30 per cent of its body weight through dehydration. The rumen helps maintain water balance in two ways. First, the rumen of hydrated ungulates and the foregut of camels contain a large volume of water, approximately equal to 20% of body weight, and may defend ungulates against short-term water deprivation. During the first few days of dehydration, fluid contained in the rumen is used to maintain the water balance of blood and body tissues. It represents a large portion (50-70%) of the water lost during dehydration. Second, after dehydration in some species, the rumen plays a role in the prevention of hemolysis and osmotic tissue shock during rapid rehydration.

  • Unique Features Of Blood

The erythrocytes of the camel are oval-shaped and non-nucleated which resist osmotic variation without rupturing; these cells can swell to twice their initial volume following rehydration. The oval red blood cells in dromedary camels can easily flow quicker in a dehydrated state of the animal as compared to the round-shaped red blood cells in other mammals. These red blood cells are also enormously expansible. Because of the shorter and less saturated fatty acid chains that they identified, the dromedary red cell membranes are more fluid than those of human red cells and perhaps this explains the remarkable stretching ability in camels. The ellipsoid shape of camel erythrocytes is very stable and the cytoskeleton differs from that of human red cells and they may expand with distilled water to 400% before they rupture. Another unique feature of the erythrocytes is their long life span when the camel is dehydrated. The life span of the erythrocytes of hydrated camels is 90 to 120 days. When camels are chronically dehydrated during summer (40°C mean during the day; 20°C mean at night) the lifespan of erythrocytes extends to 150 days. Erythrocyte turnover is water and energy-expensive. Therefore, extending the lifespan of erythrocytes reduces energy and water expenditure.

  • Thermoregulation

Body temperature regulation, a fully hydrated camel has a daily body temperature range of 36 to 38°C. However, when dehydrated and exposed to high environmental heat load body temperature may fluctuate by 6 to 7°C, from approximately 34 to 41°C. The increase in body temperature of camels exposed to high heat load, especially following a 2°C reduction below the normal minimum, is advantageous because it allows a considerable amount of heat to be stored during the day and dissipated at night (by radiation) without the expenditure of water.


Camel milk is termed the “White Gold” of the desert. According to results from several authors, lactation periods vary from 9 to 18 months, with annual milk yields of between 800 and 3600 litres. Mean daily milk production is reported to range from 2 to 6 litres under desert conditions and up to 12 to 20 litres under more intensive breeding systems.

Nutritional factors also influence milk production. Diets enriched with green forages such as alfalfa, bersim or cabbage greatly increase milk yield (Knoess, 1977; Knoess et al., 1986; Richard and Gérard, 1989). The amount of milk is only marginally decreased when drinking water is restricted, while total solids are significantly lowered (Yagil and Etzion, 1980; Yagil, Saran and Etzion, 1984; Ramet, 1987; Farah, 1993).


 Table: Proximate chemical composition of milk of different species (Al haj Omar et al 2010)


Name Of Species

Water %

Protein %

Fat %

Lactose %

 Ash %







































        Camel milk is unique and often safe for those with dairy allergies. It has a different protein and fat structure than cow's milk and a high concentration of beneficial proteins, vitamins and minerals.

  • Nutritious Properties of Camel’s Milk

         Camel milk is naturally 50% lower in fat and 50% lower in saturated fat than USDA cow milk. Camel milk is a natural pro-biotic to assists healthy bacteria growth in the gut and is easy to digest. Camel milk is an excellent source of calcium and Vitamin B1 for your Daily Value. It's a good source of protein, with 5 grams per serving offering 10% of your Daily Value. It's also a good source of potassium and phosphorus. All this delicious nutrition is only 110 calories per serving.

  • Medicinal Properties Of Camel’s Milk

        The health benefit potentials of camel milk are obtained through several bioactive components in camel milk. Camel milk is enriched with many protective proteins, which exert different activities such as antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiparasitic activity, immunological properties, growth promotion activity and anti-tumour activity (Mona et al., 2010). Camel milk contains peptides and proteins that have beneficial effects on many bioprocesses such as digestion, absorption, growth and immunity (Omar et al., 2008).

  • Protective and Therapeutic Role of Camel’s Milk

      In many regions of the world, camel milk has been used to cure a variety of illnesses, including dropsy, jaundice, TB, asthma, leishmaniasis, and kala-azar (Asresie et al., 2014). The autoimmune death of the pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin results in diabetes mellitus type 1, which raises blood and urine glucose levels. According to (Gul et al., 2015), camel milk's ability to repair damaged tissue is what allows it to treat diabetes.

       In, 2003 a study conducted in India, by Agarwal et al., compared juvenile diabetics receiving standard treatment with those who were also consuming camel milk. They discovered that the group consuming camel milk had considerably lower blood sugar levels because camel milk acts on cells similarly to insulin. Camel milk has lower lactose in comparison with cow’s milk. That’s why it can be consumed by patients intolerant to lactose without undesirable reactions. The incidence of milk allergy in infants and young children is very high. Thus, finding suitable milk for alternative mothers or bovine milk in children was needed. Camel milk can safely be used as an alternative. The potential benefits of camel milk in treating food allergies have been demonstrated.

The impact of camel milk on kids with cow's milk allergies has been studied. In this study, eight youngsters with varying degrees of food allergies took part. All they could drink was camel milk. It seems that youngsters with severe food allergies benefit from camel milk. The responses happen quickly and persistently. The severe neurodevelopmental disease known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is typified by deficits in social orientation, communication, and repetitive activities. There are numerous advantages of camel milk, particularly for kids with autism. In certain parts of the world, camel milk has long been utilized in the treatment of autism. Camel milk has a high concentration of calcium and iron, and the low pH of the milk allows enhanced absorption from the duodenum. It also contains a higher amount of zinc. The rapidly piding cells of the immune system are sensitive to zinc deficiency. The role of zinc in the development and maintenance of a normally functioning immune system has been well established (Hansen et al., 1982).


Although the indigenous dromedary camel (Camelus dromedarius) has continued to be the sole source of food, transport, and income for hundreds of thousands of nomads, its potential for increasing food supplies and family income has almost been ignored by planners of development projects and researchers. There is sufficient evidence to indicate that the dromedary camel possesses practical and unique attributes for meat and milk production under intensive and extensive management in the arid and semi-arid regions of the country. Due to prevailing droughts and the trend towards decreasing production of other animals, the camel has gained more attention as a way of bridging the gap between demand and supply. The decreasing camel population demands that  we   attend   to   the   factors  contributing towards its decline. Recent studies have shown that the camel is a prime candidate for meeting the milk requirements of pastoral people, as well as other populations if managed, bred and fed properly. Furthermore, in the context of change and global warming, under-exploited species like camels will find a better place to thrive and produce even under harsh climatic conditions. There are many virgin areas of research and development in this species, demanding that proper milk recording, selection and breeding practices are made to exploit its genetic potential to the maximum. This is expected to bring revolutionary changes and further improvements in enhanced milk production and assist camel herders by improving their pastoral economy.