So you have a camel pet and you’re wondering – how do you even milk a camel?!
In camels, milk is stored in 2 compartments: the cistern and the alveoli. The cistern has a very small volume, so 90% of the camel’s milk is in the alveolar part of the udder. Getting alveolar milk can be a rather difficult task.
Here’s how the process goes, whether you decide to do it by hand or use a machine.
How To Milk A Camel (Manually)
To milk a camel, you need to prepare the milking place, use a calf to stimulate the camel to release the milk, and then gently, wrap your fingers and squeeze down the udder to push the milk out.
Here’s a complete step-by-step process on how to do so by hand.
1. Make Sure Your Camel Can Be Milked
First of all, we will assume that the camel you have is female, as they are the only ones that can be milked.
However, not all female camels can be milked right away.
A camel will only give milk when she has given birth to a baby camel. After that, you can milk her for the next 12 to 18 months.
Also, a camel needs to be about 5 or 6 years old to be able to give milk.
2. Bond With The Camel First
Before you even think of reaching for a camel’s udder, you will need to bond with the camel and try to relax it a bit.
They have an extremely sensitive and very ticklish udder – camels hate being milked.
Even when being sucked by their calf, a camel might bite or kick the infant.
So take some time to get to know the camel, try petting it, and spend some time with it so it gets accustomed to you.
3. Prepare The Milking Post
What you want to do here is to prepare the place where you will milk the camel. Maybe you have a spot out in the yard, or maybe it is in the barn where you keep the animal.
Clean the area a bit, make sure it is a place that you can easily access to milk the camel, and make sure to have a place where you can tie the animal in case needed.
4. Bring In And Station The Camel
What you want to do next, after bringing in the camel, is to provide it with some food to distract her from the milking part.
If you find it necessary, you can even try to tie the animal.
That way a camel might be less likely to surprise the milker and try to bite or hit with its head.
Always try to be careful about how a camel reacts; some will easily accept it, but some might start to scream and refuse to be milked.
5. Clean Your Hands
Maintaining proper hand hygiene is important when doing almost everything, not just when milking a camel.
Use enough soap for it to cover your hands. Rub them for 20, 30 seconds vigorously, and then rinse with water.
6. Cut Your Fingernails
We already mentioned that camel udder is very sensitive. As you will be using your fingers for the milking process, it is highly advisable to keep fingernails short to avoid hurting and unsettling the animal.
7. Clean The Animal
If your camel lives in areas where it is very hot during the day, the animal might use its own camel urine to cool itself.
You will notice black spots on the back legs of the camel – that is urine.
You want to clean it, as urine has a strong smell that can pass onto the milk.
Make sure not to let that happen and wash the animal.
8. Prepare The Milking Bowl
Next, you will want to get a proper milking dish.
Make sure that the dish has enough capacity for all the milk that you get from the camel.
9. Bring In The Calf
Next what you want to do, is bring in the calf to help with the milking process.
Camel babies are important to help with the milk ejection reflex and to stimulate the camel to give milk.
A baby is allowed to suck for a minute or two, get the camel prepared for the next step, and then get removed.
It is important to watch camel’s teats during the sucking, as they increase in size and swell, a camel should be ready for milking.
10. Clean The Udder
After the camel starts lactating, move the calf and carefully approach the camel.
Use a clean towel, and wipe off a bit of the udder, to make sure it’s clean.
11. Bring Your Milking Bucket
Next, take your camel milking bucket and bring it closer to the animal.
There are a couple of ways to hold a bucket while milking a camel.
If you are a beginner, simply use your stronger hand for milking and your weaker one for holding the bucket.
If you are right-handed, hold the bucket in your left hand; if you are left-handed, do vice-versa.
If you are more experienced, you could place the bucket on your slightly elevated thigh, and use both hands to milk the animal.
Eventually, if you have a member of the family not doing anything at the moment, you could make them hold the bucket for you while you milk using both hands.
12. Start Milking
Wrap your dominant hand gently around the camel’s teat.
Make sure that the thumb and pointer fingers are being pressed at the base of the udder.
Next, wrap the rest of your fingers around the teat and close them, squeezing down to push out the milk.
Be gentle when doing so – do not yank or jerk the teats!
You can also use this video to learn another milking technique, using the middle and ring finger.
13. Enjoy Your Fresh Camel Milk
After you’re done milking, let your camel free from your milking post, provide it with some food, water and let it rest.
And that’s it, now you have your fresh camel milk.
We do not recommend drinking raw camel milk as it might lead to food poisoning.
Make sure it is processed enough to be safe for drinking.
How Long Does It Take To Milk A Camel?
It takes between 2 and 9 minutes to milk a camel with a milking machine, and about 5 to 10 minutes by hand, depending on the milker’s experience.
An important thing to note regarding the time needed to milk a camel is the stimulation one.
A camel needs to be stimulated by a calf, hand, or by a machine to be able to drop the milk.
That usually increases milking time by additional 2 or 3 minutes.
An experienced camel milkman will be able to get the milking process finished in about 5 minutes.
When it comes to a camel milking machine, milking times usually depend on the machine’s vacuum level and pulsation ratio.
Using high milking vacuum machines on camels can cause udder health problems and have a bad impact on health or the animal’s teats.
However, a 2015 study has shown that when using a machine at 50 kPa and 60 pulsations per minute, the camels would let down more milk in a shorter time with no negative consequences to the udder’s health.
How Much Milk Does A Camel Produce?
A camel will usually produce between 1.3 and 1.6 gallons of milk a day (5 and 6 liters). There have been camel milking farms producing 5 gallons of camel milk a day (20 liters). Most of that milk is sucked by the calf, only a small part goes into commercial production.
The amount of milk a camel produces depends on several factors: available food and water, geographical area of the camels, age, size, and camel health.
Usually, a camel will give between 265 and 1050 gallons of milk in a year (1000-4000 liters). There have been cases in Pakistan where large well-fed camels gave 2800 gallons of milk in a year (10 600 liters).
A camel can be milked about 2 to 3 times a day.
Read more: Can you milk a llama?
And there you have it!
If you have followed our camel milking steps to the point, you should now have a bucket of fresh milk sitting on your table.
We hope you have enjoyed our easy guide and that you have learned how to milk a camel.
Emirates Journal of Food and Agriculture