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Seasonal variation in milk production of camel (Camelus dromedarius) under semi-intensive system, Khartoum State, Sudan

M H Ahmed1, N M Elkhair1, M Fadl2, H H Gibreel3 and M E Elnageeb1

1 Department of Physiology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Khartoum, 13314, Shambat, Sudan
2 Department of Parasitology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Khartoum, 13314, Shambat, Sudan
3 Departments of Silviculture, Faculty of Forestry, University of Khartoum, 13314, Shambat, Sudan


This study aimed to evaluate milk production of 3 local camel breeds (Arabi, Kenani and Deali) reared under semi-intensive system as influenced by season (summer, autumn and winter). A total number of 6755 milk yield samples were collected from daily milk production records of 21 multiparous female lactating camels in their early lactation. Marked seasonal changes in the ambient temperature (Ta C), relative humidity (RH %) and rainfall (mm) was recorded. Milk production influenced significantly (P<0.0001) by camel breed, season and the interaction between camel breed and season. Significantly (P<0.0001) higher milk production was recorded by Arabi breed (23802 litre, mean: 6.30.3 litre/day) compared to Kenani and Deali breeds (20241 litre mean: 5.90.3 and 19941 litre mean: 5.30.3 litre/day, respectively). A significant (P<0.0001) higher mean value of milk production was recorded by Arabi breed during autumn (6.60.6 litre/day) compared to the respective breeds (5.60.5 and 5.20.6 litre/day). Arabi breed can be considered as a main dairy breed in camel reared under semi-intensive farms in Sudan.

Keywords: camel, breed, milk production, season


In few last decades, the potential changes in temperature, rainfall and wind patterns associated with the global climate change have been observed to have a dramatic influence on the distribution of animals, nutritive value and chemical composition of pasture plants (FAO 2016). The mentioned environmental changes were reported to have a significant impact on livestock health and productivity, distribution and prevalence of diseases and influence feed quantity and quality (Abdelatif and Elnageeb 2014; FAO 2016).

Camels are recognised as suitable species for sustainable livestock production in arid and semi-arid areas (Eisa and Mustafa 2011; Faye 2013) due to their capability to survive and producing milk under harsh, hot and dry environments (Schwartz 1992; Bekele et al 2002; Raziq et al 2008). Therefore, camels have been proposed as an alternative part of the solution to confront the rapid climatic change (Faye 2015; Al Jassim and Veerasamy 2015).

Sudan is one of the largest countries in the world populated by dromedary camels (4845 million heads, FAOSTAT 2019) in which camels are concentrated in the main two regions: the Eastern region in Butana and the red sea hills, and Western region in Darfur and Kordofan (Faye et al 2011). Camels in Sudan are mainly kept under traditional management system as a source of milk, meat, and as pack and riding animal (Bakheit et al 2015; Shuiep et al 2014); however, El Zubier and Nour (2006) and Babiker and El Zubeir (2014) described camel husbandry and practices under intensive and semi-intensive systems in pre-urban area of Khartoum State.

Milk production of camels varied depending on the region (Kamoun and Jemmali 2012), breed (Elkhair et al 2017), season (Zeleke 2007; Nagy et al 2017; Elkhair et al 2017), stage of lactation (Al-Saiady et al 2012; Nagy et al 2017; Hadef et al 2018) and production system (Dowelmadina et al 2015; Bakheit et al 2015; Mostafa et al 2017). In Sudan, milk production of the camels has been considered to be 5-10 kg/day (Agab 1993). In Sudan, seasonal variations in milk production of camels have been reported by Salman (2002) and Elkhair et al (2017) who reported higher milk production during the rainy season and lower values during summer. However, few data is available regarding the interaction between camel breed, season and milk production under semi-intensive system. Therefore, the study aimed to provide additional and useful information on the effect of camel breed and season on milk production under semi-intensive system in Khartoum State, Sudan.

Materials and Methods

Study Area

The study was carried out at Camel Research Centre, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Khartoum (Shambat, Khartoum state, Sudan) during 3 seasons: summer, autumn and winter (July 2012-June 2013). Shambat area (Latitude 15 North, 32 ͦ Longitude East) was described by Andrews (1948), Smith (1949) and Harrison and Jackson (1958) as a part of Acacia desert scrub.

Climatic Data

The mean values of maximum and minimum ambient temperature (TaC) rainfall (mm) and relative humidity (RH %) during the experimental period was obtained from Shambat Meteorological Unit, Khartoum State (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Meteorological data obtained during the study period at Shambat area, Khartoum State, Sudan
Animals, Management, Browsing and Feeding Behaviour

Twenty one multiparous lactating camels in their early lactation were used. The animals were reared under semi-intensive system. The lactating camels were maintained on grazing grass and herbs and browsing shrubs and trees for two hours daily (9-11 am) on an open areas surrounding the farm until mid-day and then they were kept inside the farm for milking and supplement feeding, which was consisted of a mixture of traditional ingredients: crushed Sorghum bicolor, groundnut cake, molasses, and Sorghum lactabiocolor (Abu 70) as roughages. The animals had free access to fresh water.

Data Collection

A total number of 6755 milk yield samples were collected from daily milk production records of 3 local breeds: Arabi, Kenani and Deali. The milk yield was determined by milking front teats 2 times per day while the other 2 teats were left for suckling calves (University farm milking protocol). The total milk yield for whole udder was estimated by multiplying milk production from the two teats by two.

Statistical analysis

Statistical analysis was performed using SPSS for Windows version 20. The statistical measurements were estimated using General Linear Model (GLM) procedures. ANOVA tests (Levine’s Test and Post Hoc Test) were used to assess the possible significant differences among camel breeds and seasons. The differences among the means were determined using Duncan multiple range test. The mean difference was considered significant at p ≤0.05.

Results and Discussion

Natural grazing and browsing pattern
Figure 2. Natural grazing and browsing pattern of the lactating camels at Shambat area

The majority of the plant species (14) were shrubs, small trees and trees, which indicated that the lactating camels were selected browser rather than grazer due to their superior anatomical adaptation for browsing. Similar results have been observed by Amin et al (2005) who concluded that the anatomical adaptations of camels such as the mobile and prehensile split upper lip, the long tongue, the horny nature of the oral cavity, the stretched neck and the extended head enabled camels to browse more than to graze. Furthermore, the consumption of different parts of plants by the lactating camels could be attributed that the lactating camels try to select a part of the plant (leaves, young twigs, pods, inflorescence and fruits) with higher nutritive values to meet their lactation requirement. Alkali et al (2017) stated that energy expenditure and transfer of nutrients through lactation in camels increase their selectivity for food sources rich in nitrogen, sodium or calcium.

Table 1. Plants selected by lactating camels during natural browsing at Shambat area (Scientific names of plants has been reviewed by African Plant Database, 2014)
Family Botanical name Local name Habit Part (s) consumed
Amaranthaceae Amaranthus viridis L. Lisan El Teir Herb Leaves
Aristolochiaceae Aristolochia bracteolata Lam. Um Gelagel Herb Leaves
Asteraceae Sonchus asper (L.) Hill. Moleita Herb Leaves and stems
Balanitaceae Balanites aegyptiaca (L.) Delile. Higeleeg Tree Leaves
Boraginaceae Cordia sinensis Lam. Andrab Small tree Leaves and fruits
Capparidaceae Capparis deciduas Forssk. Edgew Tundub Shrub Young twigs and ripe fruits
Fabaceae Indigofera oblongifoliaForrsk Dahassir Herb Leaves and pods
Fabaceae Sub family: Caesalpinioideae Parkinsonia aculeate Sesban abu Shoka Shrub or small Tree Leaves and inflorescences
Fabaceae Sub family: Mimosoideae Acacia laeta R. Br. ex Benth. Subahi Shrub Young twigs and leaves
Fabaceae Sub family: Mimosoideae Acacia mellifera (Vahl) Benth. Kiter Shrub Young twigs and leaves
Fabaceae Sub family: Mimosoideae Acacia nilotica (L.) Willd. ex Delile subsp. nilotica Sunt Tree Young twigs, leaves, inflorescence
Fabaceae Sub family: Mimosoideae Acacia seyal (Del.) var. seyal. Talih Ahmer Tree Young twigs, leaves, inflorescence & immature pods
FabaceaeSub family: Mimosoideae Faidherbia albida (Delile) A. Chev. Haraz Tree Young twigs, leaves, inflorescences & pods
Fabaceae Sub family: Mimosoideae Prosopis juliflora (Sw.) DC. Mesquite Shrub Young twigs, leaves, inflorescence & immature pods
Meliaceae Khaya senegalensis (Desr.) A. Juss. Mahogani Tree Young twigs and leaves
Poaceae Cyndon dactylon (L.) Pers Nageela Grass Leaves and stems
Rhamnaceae Ziziplus spina -christi Sidir Shrub or small tree Young twigs, leaves and fruits
Salvadoraceae Salvadora persica L. Arak Shrub Leaves and ripe fruits

Milk production data Table 2 shows that milk production influenced significantly (P<0.0001) by camel breed, season and the interaction between camel breed and season. Significantly (P<0.0001) higher milk production was recorded by Arabi breed (23802 litre, mean: 6.30.3 litre/day) compared to Kenani and Deali breeds (20241 litre mean: 5.90.3 and 19940.9 litre mean: 5.30.3 litre/day, respectively).

Table 2. Milk production of 3 local camel breeds under semi-intensive system, Khartoum State, Sudan
Parameter Breed Level of significance P- value
Arabi Kenani Deali Breed Season Breed × Season
Daily milk production (litre) 6.3 a±0.3 5.9 b±0.3 5.3 c±0.3 *** *** *** 0.0001
Total milk production (litre) 2380 a±2 2024 b±1 1994 c±1 *** *** *** 0.0001
a, b, c Means within the same row bearing different superscripts are significantly different at ***P<0.0001

Figure 3. Effect of breed on milk production of dromedary camel under semi-intensive system

In the present study, Arabi breed represents higher milk production compared to the respective breeds, which attributed to the variations on the genetic potential for milk production between the three breeds. The significant influence of camel breed on milk production is in agreement with those reported previously by other investigators (Gaili et al 2000; Riyadh et al 2012; Dowelmadina and El Zubeir 2014; Elkhair et al 2017). Furthermore, the significant higher milk production during autumn season could be attributed to the forage and water availability, supplementary diets, health care that oriented to lactating camels used. Similar has been reported by Tekle and Tesfay (2013) who stated that higher mean value of daily milk production was recorded during the rainy season in Ethiopia. Many researchers found that season had significant impact on milk production in camels (Bakheit et al 2008; Shuiep et al 2008; Musaad et al 2013; Nagy et al 2017; Elkhair et al 2017).

The climatic data obtained in the present study revealed that the higher ambient temperature recorded during summer season was accompanied by a significant lower (P<0. 0001) milk production. On the other hand, the results presented in Figure 2 indicated that Arabi and Kenani breeds showed approximately equal values of milk production during summer compared to Deali breed. This pattern of response can be explained by both Arabi and Kenani continue to produce milk under hot summer conditions; however, Kenani breed showed a significant drop in milk production during autumn and winter seasons compared to Arabi breed. Therefore, the present study recommends Arabi breed to be considered as the main breed for camel milk production in semi-intensive farms in Sudan.



The authors thank Camel Research Centre authorities, University of Khartoum (Sudan), for their assistance during the experimental work. We would like to extend our thanks to the staff of Sudan Meteorological Authority, Khartoum and Shambat Unit for their collaboration.


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Received 31 October 2019; Accepted 1 November 2019; Published 2 December 2019

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