Milking camels and the Queen's cows – What I learned at the Precision Dairy Conference
August 10, 2013
A few weeks ago the University of Minnesota hosted the first-ever U.S. Precision Dairy Conference in Rochester, MN. We had about 550 attendees from throughout the United States, Canada and 24 other countries. I learned about the latest research concerning dairy technology at the conference sessions, but one of the most interesting conversations I had was during the evening banquet.
At the banquet I sat next to a technical service representative from Fullwood, a milking equipment company based in the United Kingdom. Among our conversation topics was the British Monarchy and the impending birth of Prince William and Kate Middleton's child. During this conversation he mentioned that his company sold Queen Elizabeth three robotic milkers for her 180 Jersey cows. I didn't even know that the Queen had dairy cows! She actually has a herd of about 200 Jersey cows that are milked with 3 robots in a new barn at Prince Consort Farm, which is near Windsor Castle. At one time the Queen actually had two herds of cows – Jerseys and Ayrshires. I guess you would not expect anything less since Jerseys were developed on an island in the English Channel and Ayrshires were developed in Scotland. He also mentioned that Queen Elizabeth had Jersey cream in her coffee every morning for breakfast. He seemed to believe that the Queen is very proud of her cows and takes quite an interest in their care. I knew there was something special about the Queen.
He also mentioned that Fullwood recently built a couple of huge parlors in the United Arab Emirates to milk camels. I knew that these countries milked camels, but I did not know they milked so many of them. Before they constructed these parlors, large numbers of camels were milked by hand. It sounds like the hand-milking process was interesting to say the least. Calves were allowed to nurse to stimulate milk letdown. After milk letdown, two milkers (one on each side) chased the calf away, held buckets on a bent knee and while standing on one leg, milked the camel. This takes more skill than I have.
An average camel produces about 45 pounds of milk per day, with high producing camels producing around 90 pounds of milk per day. Camel milk is similar in many of the components to cow's milk. It averages about 3.8% milk fat and 3.3% total protein. It is lower in lactose that cow's milk. Cow's milk contains 4.9% lactose and camel's milk is only 4.4% lactose. As you can imagine, camels manage the heat of the Middle East better than cattle. But it is difficult to make cheese from camel milk because camel milk does not coagulate readily with rennet.
I always find it interesting to visit with people involved in the dairy industry in other parts of the world. There seems to be a common bond among dairy industry folks, no matter where they work. Even though there may be many differences in the structure of the industry, the keys to success are similar. Good animal care, good nutrition and good milking practices are the keys to success.
I encourage you to keep visiting with others in the industry as well, even if their operations are significantly different than yours. You never know what gems of knowledge come out of the visit that might impact your dairy future.