Feeding Camels

Camels are like goats and can browse, eating bushes and the branches of trees. Like cattle and sheep they also graze on grass. The camel browses or grazes for 8 hours each day and will take another 6 to 8 hours to chew the cud. They can be fed like cattle and will eat straw, hay, silage, grains and cakes.

The camel can eat sharp, thorny plants which other animals cannot eat. Camels can reach branches of trees and bushes to a height of 3 metres. The camel eats these woody plants by using its strong canine (dog) teeth to crush the wood.

In dry seasons when feed becomes scarce the camel can live off the fat which is stored in the hump. It can survive in this way for a very long period and will lose weight as the fat is used. A camel can lose up to 200 kg in weight during this period.

Camels recognise poisonous plants growing in the area and will not eat them. However if the camel is moved to a new area where different poisonous plants are found then it may eat those plants.


The camel is well known for its ability to withstand thirst and to go without water for a long time. The camel can do this because:

  • It can change its body temperature to as low as 34°C and as high as 41°C
  • Camels produce small amounts of urine which is (concentrated) thick

If the camel is kept near a water point or a river it may drink small amounts of water daily. In cold weather, and when green feed is available, the camel may not drink water for months because it can get all the water it needs from the plants. In dry seasons camels drink up to 60 litres of water every 10 days. A thirsty camel in a hot dry season can drink up to 200 litres of water in one go.


Salt is very important for the camel. It needs eight times as much salt as do cattle and sheep. A camel needs 1 kg of salt a week and it is advisable to leave salt with camels every week.