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A One Of 2 Licensed Camel Dairies in the United States Lies In Eastern Colorado

WRAY, Colo. (CBS4) – People with food allergies and lactose intolerance are always looking for other options to cow's milk. There is an ancient alternative that's being produced in Colorado.

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In the far eastern area of the state, eight miles from the Nebraska border, there is a dairy farm called "Camelot."

"I was looking to do something unique, something different…just kind of the 'wow' factor," said first generation dairy farmer, Kyle Hendrix.

In his case, the "wow" factor is 40 head of camel.

"The camel is a very overlooked animal, for sure," Hendrix told CBS4.

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Hendrix and his family started with three cows and a bull in 2013. They've grown their operation from there.

"It will be five to six years before they have their first calf, so it's a long waiting game to get one into production," he explained.

Majestic, smart and curious, camels are kind, each with her own personality.

"You've got to get on a personal level with each one, and just kind of work with them, and work with their personalities," Hendrix said.

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(credit Camelot Dairy)

Camelot Dairy is a family operation. Kyle, his wife, Holly, and their children - Evan, 16; Asher, 12; Reed, 7; and Sarah; 5 - all work on the farm together.

"To milk a camel, you have to maintain a cow/calf relationship at all times," Hendrix explained. "It's quite a process and you only have about 90 seconds to harvest that milk."

The harvest yields up to a gallon-and-a-half of milk a day.

"We're averaging 8 to 16 pints a day per cow," he said.

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(credit Camelot Dairy)

Each pint is pasteurized to kill the bacteria, then bottled and frozen for shipping.

"We're one of two licensed camel dairies in the United States, right now," Hendrix explained.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture licenses the operation, checking it monthly to make sure it meets health standards. The market for camel's milk is growing in the United States.

"A lot of mothers are buying our milk for their kids with like sensitivity issues," Hendrix said.

Camel's milk is considered to be a healthy milk. It's higher in antioxidants, and has low levels of sugar and saturated fat. Some consider it a perfect substitute for people who can't tolerate cow's milk.

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(credit Camelot Dairy)

"There are some potential benefits for adults, or even children – not infants and young toddlers who need to be consuming formula," said Bonnie Jortberg, a registered dietician and nutritionist at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. "You would not want to substitute camel's milk for formula or certainly not for a mother's regular milk."

However, there are cultures in the Middle East and Africa who primarily drink camel's milk.

"The milk has helped a lot of people around the globe," Hendrix said.

One drawback is it is expensive in the United States. The time-consuming milking process and the limited supply push up prices. One pint sells for between $12-$16.

LINK: Camelot Dairy

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