Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pa. Dairy Farms Seeing Potential in Camel's Milk

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pa. Dairy Farms Seeing Potential in Camel's Milk

Article excerpt

LANCASTER, Pa. --

Let's get the obvious questions about camel's milk out of the way first.

It tastes like skim milk, just a wee bit saltier.

And with regard to how you milk a camel: Very carefully, it turns out.

Camel's milk has arrived in Lancaster County, courtesy of Little Bit, Twila and their herd, which can be seen grazing placidly in a pasture on an Amish farm in Upper Leacock.

A local Amish organic cooperative is operating a camel dairy here, milking the long-legged, one-humped animals twice a day.

Miller's Organic Farm ships the milk all over the United States and even into Canada, for $10 a pint. It has about 100 customers who regularly buy camel's milk.

Miller's is one of about a half a dozen camel dairies in the nation, operating in states including Missouri, Michigan and Indiana. Like Miller's, many of the dairies are operated by Plain Sect farmers.

The local co-op also offers other camel's milk products, including camel's milk yogurt; camel's milk kefir, which is a fermented milk drink; and camel's milk soap, which is made by a local company.

The co-op also sells cheese, butter and other items it makes in its own dairy using milk from more conventional sources, such as cows, along with other natural products, including grass-fed beef, pickled beets, organic potato chips, coconut oil and raw honey.

In the past two years, the farm has built up a six-camel milking herd, along with a bull camel to propagate the group.

The dairy camels are milked twice a day, with a conventional milking machine.

The animals can be a bit choosy and a bit stingy with their milk, says a Miller's employee, Ben Stoltzfus.

Camels can be milked only while they are nursing a baby and they will give up only so much of their milk in a session, he says.

"A camel will allow milk to be withdrawn from their udder for only 90 seconds," he says. "They have like a spigot on their udder, and if they choose not to give milk there is really not much we can do."

Camels also tend to be a "one-man animal," Mr. Stoltzfus says, functioning best with one caregiver who is used to their personalities and temperaments.

If their local caretaker has to go away, the camels get a bit funny and won't give much milk for a milking or two, until they get used to his stand-in, Mr. Stoltzfus says.

It was Mr. Stoltzfus, 35, who brought the camel's milk to the co- op after he became interested in it because one of his sons has an auto-immune disease and diabetes.

A few years ago, a friend at the Bird-in-Hand Fire Company told Mr. Stoltzfus that a cousin in Turbotville, in Northumberland County, had a camel herd and was selling the milk, which some people believe is helpful for children with autism or people with diabetes.

Mr. Stoltzfus was looking for natural remedies for his son. …

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