“We have been researching camels for some time now, in partnership with the Institute for Conservation Medicine St. Louis Zoological Society, as camels are a source of rich, nutritious, affordable, wholesome protein which has sustained communities for thousands of years. In our 2011 Sustainability Report, we talked about a baseline study on disease prevalence in camels in Kenya, focusing on certain diseases that may be transmitted from camels to people through the consumption of milk and meat products if these food items are not properly prepared. Our ongoing research relating to camel productivity in Kenya has shown that improvements in feed composition increases milk production by up to 18 percent.
Kenya has an estimated 2.9 million camels, more than five percent of the world’s dromedary camels. There is a growing need and market for camel products, but little research has been done to support the commercial viability of this species. One of the issues with camel rearing is limited milk production. The objective of our research was to test ways to reduce calf mortality and maintain female milk production within a camel herd, especially during increasingly severe droughts. In partnership with the Mpala Research Centre, Kenya; the Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University, Kenya; and the St. Louis Zoological Society, we investigated the effectiveness of a feed supplement to improve milk quantity and quality, and calf survival up to weaning among a managed herd of dromedary camels in Laikipia, Kenya, with funding from a grant through the Conservation, Food & Health Foundation. We engaged private camel herders and a local camel milk processor to participate in the trial.
Our results showed that 17 female camels receiving a feed supplement produced 13 percent more milk than females not receiving supplements. The results also showed that when supplements were given during pregnancy as well as lactation and milk production could be tracked consistently from birth, milk yield was on average 18 percent higher among supplemented females.
This is the first attempt in Kenya to test the efficacy of feed supplements in camels and will contribute to making camel protein more available and more affordable in this region, while improving livelihoods of pastoral farmers in arid lands.”