Understanding Basic Camel Life Process

Breeding Camels

The camel is unlike other animals as the female only has young every two years. During the breeding season the male camels rut and become aggressive and dangerous.

Rutting in the Male Camel

The male camel becomes mature and will mate at 6 years of age. There is a breeding season (time) when mating takes place. The breeding season depends on availability of pasture, rain and cold and will vary from region to region The male and female camels become restless and difficult to handle in the breeding season.

During the breeding season the male ruts. The signs of rutting are:

The back portion of the roof of the mouth is pushed out of the mouth like a pink ball (this only occurs in the one-humped camel).

The testicles become bigger.

Glands on the neck behind the head begin to produce a brown, bad smelling matter.

The animal will spread out its back legs and using the tail sprays urine over its back legs.

The male becomes difficult to handle and dangerous when rutting. It will attack other animals and people. Some animals, especially older males, constantly rut and become a problem. Such animals should be castrated and if there are any male animals that will not be needed for breeding they should be castrated at an early age. Ask your veterinary officer to castrate these animals.

Heat (Oestrus) in Camels

The female comes into heat for the first time when she is 3 to 4 years old. The camel can continue to breed until she is 20 to 30 years old.

The female will show a desire for mating over a 3 to 4 day period during the breeding season. If she does not become pregnant she will come into heat again every 28 days and will have 5 periods of heat in any breeding season.


When a female camel is pregnant she will run away from any male which approaches her. Pregnancy lasts 390 days in the one-humped camel and lasts 406 days in the two-humped camel.

If there is plenty of feed available the young camel can be taken from its mother at 6 weeks of age and she can be mated again to produce young the next year. However productivity is low for most camels and they usually produce one young every two years.

Giving Birth (parturition) in Camels

The signs that the female is about to give birth are similar to those in other ruminants. The female becomes restless, the vulva is swollen and she will separate from the other animals. Birth commences with the appearance of the water bag followed by the two front legs and the head.

The size of the newborn camel is dependent on the size of its parents. The average calf weighs around 35 kilograms and the male is larger than the female. The camel born in dry (bad) years will weigh less than the young animal born in a good year.

The mother does not bite through the navel cord neither does she lick and clean her baby, but she will help the young to find the teats to take milk. The camel is a very good mother and does not like anyone to go near her young.

If the female loses her young she will become very distressed. In order to keep the female producing milk the skin should be taken from the young camel and stuffed with straw. The female will continue to produce milk for her “baby”. Neither the one-humped or the two-humped camel will accept orphaned young. Orphans will have to be reared by hand.

Milk and care of the young camel

Young camels start to eat grass at 2 to 3 months of age and can be weaned by 4 months of age. Leaving the calf to suckle for longer than this reduces the amount of milk available for people.

The Production of young from the Camel

A female camel will usually give birth to one young every 2 years. This means that a female will normally produce 8 young throughout her life. This is a very poor rate of reproduction.

Many young camels die before or soon after birth because:

The mother was not fed well during pregnancy.

Some camel owners do not allow the calf to take colostrum.

The male and female were related with perhaps the same mother and father. This is called inbreeding and will result in the production of dead or weak young in any type of animal. You should keep a record of the males used for breeding to try to avoid this happening.


It is essential for the young camel to take colostrum from its mother in order to be protected against some diseases. The mother produces colostrum for 4 to 5 days after birth. Many camel owners do not allow the young camel to freely suckle because they believe this causes the young to suffer from belly pain and diarrhoea. Some owners will prevent the young camel from taking any colostrum and this can lead to its death. You should allow the young animal to take colostrum.

Weaning the young Camel

The young camel will start to eat grass when it is 2 to 3 months old and can be weaned when it is 4 months old. Many owners leave the young camel with its mother until it is at least a year old. If it is weaned early care must be taken to introduce it slowly to solid food in order to avoid diarrhoea developing and also to prevent it picking up internal parasites.

Milk Yield and Quality

If the young camel is allowed to suckle from its mother for 1 to 2 years the amount of milk available to the owner is reduced. If it is not allowed to suckle whenever it wants, milk can be taken from the mother and the young animal can be gradually weaned to solid food. A young camel that is allowed to take milk whenever it wants becomes fat and may have difficulty in walking. It will also suffer when it is finally taken from its mother.

The camel can produce milk for 9 to 18 months. Camel milk contains the necessary proteins, sugars, fats, minerals and vitamins for the young and is a valuable food for people.

The quality and quantity of milk produced by the camel will depend on the availability of water and feed, how often she is milked and when she gave birth. A camel will give 4 to 12 kilograms of milk daily. The milk will be sweet or salty in taste depending on the plants the animal feeds on.

Camel milk is a rich source of vitamin C and forms an important source of this vitamin for desert people who are unable get this vital vitamin from fruits and vegetables.

Camel milk may be the only available milk in desert conditions where other milking animals cannot be maintained. In some countries camels are kept for their milk which is not only used for drinking but can be made into a number of foods. If camel milk is mixed with the milk of other animals e.g. cow, goat, it can be made into cheese, yoghurt and butter. Milk from the two-humped camel is used for cheese and butter.