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Published: January 1st 2015
If you have never been part of a camel milking competition, I feel sorry for you! This old school style of milking mixed with heated competition and adorable baby camels is a must for anyone. Okay, maybe not everyone would enjoy it, but we absolutely loved it. Like many of the events at the Al Dhafra Camel Festival we were welcomed right into the thick of things and front row to all the excitement.
The participants and festival organizers seemed thrilled to have Americans who were so excited about their events and went out of their way to include us in the action. They also made sure we fully understood what was happening and why.
The milking competition was held everyday for a week in the morning and in the afternoon (typical milking/nursing times for the camels). We attended the afternoon competitions.
Each camel has a team of 4-6 milkers including the guy who kneels and holds the official big metal bowl (I will call him Mr. Steady Hands), 2-4 milkers (Mr. Soft Hands) and the owner who acts as a coach (Mr. Heavy Hand). The owner barks orders to the milkers and tells them when to change
shifts. While he is doing this, he often scratches the mama camel on her back right above her tail and talks sweetly to the mama camel. He then decides when she has given all her milk and they are finished. It took about 4 minutes to collect all the milk. With the bigger camels, some teams had two people milking at the same time on the same side.
Before the human milking team can begin, they must rely on the baby camel member of the milking team. A mama camel will not drop her milk unless her baby is near. So the team brings the mama and baby into a pen, lets the baby nuzzle her mama and removes the knitted udder cover they keep on the mama camel. The baby is HUNGRY and tries to immediately begin nursing, but the baby is not allowed to eat until after the milk has been collected.
So the baby nuzzles and then is pushed away. Someone from the team has to monitor the baby and make sure no milk is stolen during the process (Mr. Fast Hands). During the competition, the baby is squirming around, crying and looking dumbfounded that
Dad Monitoring the Scales
The locals stood behind and guessed how much the milk would weigh and dad would settle their verbal bets after he looked at the scale.
dinner is stolen by these humans.
While the team is milking, there is a judge standing by to make sure no one puts anything into the bowl or does anything to cheat.
Once the bowl is full, several members of the team quickly, but VERY CAREFULLY, carry the bowl to the scales where another official judge weighs the milk on the scales, writes down the amount (later to entered into a computer) and announces the amount. Depending on the amount, the crowd cheers or claps or looks dissappointed.
My favorite part of the process comes after the milk has been weighed. This is when the milking team allows the baby to eat. Because the mama has been nursed, the baby gets the milk straight from the bowl.
Camel's milk comes out VERY frothy--much more than cows' milk. So the baby is given a bowl of milk that has a lot foam on top which inevitably ends up on the baby's nose and chin. What a sight. Makes me laugh just thinking about it. It is the best milk advertisement I have ever seen.
For competition sake, like breeds of camels compete against each other. First
the Asayals (tan camels) are brought into the pens. Once they have all been milked, the Majahims (black camels) are milked and then the crossbreeds or hybrids. The Majahims are considered the best for milk (greatest production) and their milk is considered a little saltier. The Asayals' milk is considered sweeter.
The winner is determined by the most production over 6 days of milking. When the milk was weighed each day scores ranged from 6.0 to 9.0 liters, but when we watched Festival highlights on TV (they stream all day, everyday) we saw one camel produce 10.1 liters. Like the beauty contests, the top three winners of each category gets vehicles.
Tot: 0.105s; Tpl: 0.061s; cc: 11; qc: 19; dbt: 0.0152s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.2mb