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Camels in permaculture systems to replace cattle?  RSS feed

 
Michael Longfield
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Location: Southern IL zone 7
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This website sells camel milk from grass fed camels.  Desertfarms.com

According to their website...

Camel milk is much easier for the body to digest — perfect for people with lactose intolerance.
Camel milk calcium is much more absorbable than that found in other milks.
Camel milk has been linked to better insulin sensitivity due to its natural high insulin content. Around 52 units of insulin for every liter.
Camel milk can be used as a supplement to mother's milk and has the same properties as Colostrom.
Camel milk has been found to lower high fasting blood glucose levels and Hemoglobin A1c in diabetics.
Camel milk is anti-inflammatory and helps to heal the leaky gut.
Autistic children have seen improvement in cognitive tests and may alleviate some of the symptoms  from drinking camel milk.
Camel milk is ideal for people allergic to cow or goat milk. And may reverse some of the allergies.

I learned about this from a commercial on bulletproof radio.  They have a promotion where you can try it for free if you pay for shipping.  Desertfarms.com/bulletproof

There is no mentioning of camels on the entire searchable site of permies.com   I wonder what climates they are suitable in and what usefulness they would have in our systems.  It sounds like it could be an option for a resilient livestock to ride out the heatwaves of climate change.
 
Leora Laforge
Posts: 54
Location: Saskatchewan
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I have done a bunch of research on camels, just for fun, I have no actual experience with them. There are two species of camels, the dromedary, is a one humped animal that thrives in hot, dry environments. The bactrian camel is the two humped camel, this one is from China and Mongolia, this one is suited to dry environments with severe winters. For both species the main use is as load carriers. Milk, meat and wool are secondary products. Both species have weights equivalent to medium-large cows, but are much taller.

One reason cows are more popular for milking than camels is ease of milking. Based on my research a camel does not let her milk down until her offspring asks for it, not sure how this works, but it means the camel has to have her offspring with her, to milk a person has to be ready to interrupt at any time of day. This means very labour intensive. With dairy cows the calf can be taken away and raised separately while the cow is milked at the time the person chooses.

As for all these claims the website makes:

Digestibility- I think camel milk does more closely resemble human milk so this would be a yes.
Calcium uptake- could be, I don't know.
Insulin- no idea.
Supplement as mothers milk- I think it is supposed to be better than cow or goat, this would be due to similarities to human milk, however it is not exactly the same as human milk so it is not ideal.
Same properties as colostrum- absolutely not, domestic animal babies are born with a fully functioning immune system and no idea what to do with it, the purpose of colostrum is that it is a complete copy of the mothers antibodies, our domestic animals are born with leaky intestines that allow the antibodies to go straight through them and into the bloodstream. Humans have no need for colostrum, mothers transfer antibodies to their children in utero.
High fasting blood glucose levels - I am pretty sure that is not a problem for anyone at all.
Hemoglobin- is what makes blood red, and is used to transport oxygen to tissues, I would rather have high than low levels of that.
Anti-inflammatory properties- maybe, I don't know.
Improvement in cognitive tests- yes highly nutritious foods tend to do that, to everyone who consumes them.
For people with allergies- could be, it is supposed to be more similar to human milk.
Reverse allergies- not consuming something you are allergic to tends to reduce symptoms.

I foresee three big challenges to implementing this sort of thing in North America:
1) getting the high milking camels  in the first place.
2) milking the camels.
3) marketing camel milk as it is an unfamiliar product to most people.
 
duane hennon
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I wonder how camels would do in a mixed herd with cows, goats, sheep, etc
do they get along with others?

if they did, and you could get a couple
maybe they could provide some diversity in a rotational grazing system
 
Lynn Garcia
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Leora Laforge wrote:
Supplement as mothers milk- I think it is supposed to be better than cow or goat, this would be due to similarities to human milk, however it is not exactly the same as human milk so it is not ideal.
Same properties as colostrum- absolutely not, domestic animal babies are born with a fully functioning immune system and no idea what to do with it, the purpose of colostrum is that it is a complete copy of the mothers antibodies, our domestic animals are born with leaky intestines that allow the antibodies to go straight through them and into the bloodstream. Humans have no need for colostrum, mothers transfer antibodies to their children in utero.
.


No mammals are born with fully functioning immune systems, they develop largely after birth in response to their environment. Milk in mammals holds a dual purpose and that is to both feed the infant and provide antibodies that the infant will need for survival. Humans definitively do produce colostrum within the first three days after birth and do NOT transfer antibodies in utero. The only thing that passes between mother and child during pregnancy is oxygen, carbon dioxide, proteins, fats and carbs. These are passed between the placental barrier, which is there to keep the mothers bloodstream and the fetus's bloodstream separate.  If antibodies are passing in utero it is a sign that something is wrong with the placenta and can often end in miscarriage. This is true across all placental mammals.

Milk in Ungulates is much higher in fat than human/primate milk. This is due to the differences of how the young need to grow. Ungulates need their babies to be up and moving rapidly so they can move with the herd. Their young need lots of fats since they cannot feed as often as primate mothers do. Humans and other primates carry their young around and their infants feed often. Their milk is low in fat due to frequent feeding. Most primates have milk that is largely water with just traces of anything else. Camel milk may be more easily tolerated but it is hardly similar to human milk in content. It is considerably higher in fat and proteins.

As far as intestines go in animals leaky is an odd way to describe them. The entire alimentary canal is capable of absorbing nutrients, however it is not a passive process. Only water can truly pass through the barrier without an energy assist. All other nutrients that we need must be helped across the barrier with various different mechanisms and energy requirements for each type. Antibodies in particular require immune cells to pick them up in the intestines and must be passed back and forth by these cells to be added to the immune arsenal. An animal with a leaky intestine is an animal that will not live long thanks to a massive bacterial infection.
 
Libbie Hawker
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Location: Friday Harbor, WA
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Michael Longfield wrote:
There is no mentioning of camels on the entire searchable site of permies.com   I wonder what climates they are suitable in and what usefulness they would have in our systems.  It sounds like it could be an option for a resilient livestock to ride out the heatwaves of climate change.


I used to be a zookeeper and have some experience working with a variety of camelid species. I find all the camelids to be very pleasant animals, not at all deserving of their spiteful (and spit-ful) reputations!

They do all tend to be pretty rugged and adaptable, and nearly all of them evolved in harsh environments (either arid conditions or very high elevations.) Certainly, the dromedary and Bactrian camels have a foot structure that is less destructive to soil. They aren't as heavy as cattle and their feet are padded/cushioned with a toenail at the front of the toe, instead of being hard hoof all the way around, so they're less likely to compact soil and/or damage vegetation, which further reduces soil health and allows for more erosion.

Bactrians also produce wool (as do many other camelids, like alpacas and llamas) so that could be an additional source of income, potentially.

We do have a dromedary camel living here on the island, as somebody's pet. She lives with a llama as a buddy. Her name is Mona; she's locally famous. She seems to get along well in the Pacific Northwest, zone 8. Looks like a healthy and happy camel to me, though she would probably appreciate more dromedaries, since they are social critters and like to hang out with their own kind best.
 
Travis Johnson
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We have camels in Maine and they do just fine (not on my farm, I have just seen them here). My friend had one and said they were kind of fun to have, and easy keepers.

I am suspect of many claims on off-beat livestock only because over the years I have seen numerous claims that just never turned out to be true...hey they are a novelty so its hard to prove their claims.

They are not for me, but I don't see why other Permiculturists could not do well with them. They are easy to get, every 4 months there is a off-beat livestock auction in MO where you can buy them. You have to have them vet checked for certain diseases for your particular state before transport which may or may not be expensive, but definitely easy enough to get.
 
Cody DeBaun
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I know Bill talked about camels in several places, though you don't hear much about them these days. It seems to me that most (not all, but most) of the Permaculture community represented on the internet is temperate or tropical, not so much from the drylands. That seems really strange, the more I think about it- Bill, Geoff, Fukuoka and Sepp all went to arid places to teach and help establish sustainable self-sufficiency. Fukuoka and Sepp wrote books about it. Might just be a question of internet presence. Might just be a question of Permies.com presence.

Disgression aside: Bill mentions difficulties with camels and the danger they present in arid landscapes here. On the other hand I also remember him talking about a man that ran a camel ranch in a PDC lecture, and praising the guy for his ingenuity. Can't find it though.
 
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