Camel capers down on the farm
Disembarking after a 45-minute drive from Brisbane, the first thing I noticed was the vast blue sky.
A rolling vista spread out around me with the smudged outline of the Great Dividing Range in the distance.
In the foreground were hundreds of camels of all sizes. They grazed calmly, at home in the landscape. The air smelled fresh, no camel aroma wafting on the breeze.
First, let’s clear up some camel falsehoods. Camels do not spit but alpacas do.
Camel footpads are better suited to protect vegetation than European farm animals. It’s generally known that a camel can walk over 100km without water and carry heavier loads than a horse. But did you know that they are excellent swimmers? Who’d have thought? It’s true.
We strolled to the picturesque Queenslander homestead where fresh scones, homemade jam and cream awaited. Then we realised what we were eating.
The white fromage cream I dabbed on scones and the milk in my coffee were not from a dairy cow but a camel.
Camellatté has a nice ring to it. Delicious!
We subsequently discovered it’s beneficial for our immune system, digestive tract and those suffering diabetes, eczema and lactose intolerance.
I loved meeting the camels at the fence. They looked at me enquiringly and blinked their long eyelashes hoping for something edible before posing for photos.
In Australia we have dromedary camels, one hump.
The dromedary female gestation period is 13-14 months or around 410 days. I saw a baby camel, 24-hours old, all spindly legs, wobbling yet determined to stand.
Our group sat in the breezeway of a vast farm shed where milk and by-products are tested and processed while Summer Land Camel Farm CEO and co-founder Jeff Flood delivered an intelligent and informative talk.
A passionate cameleer, Jeff is from a farming background with biochemist and nutritional immunotherapist degrees.
Onward to the open-air camel dairy, where we learned the long road to milking as young camels frisked in an adjoining paddock.
Camel milk is not high volume in Australia, but this farm is the largest commercial-scale camel dairy operation outside the Middle East and the third largest of its kind in the world.
Jeff Flood, and co-founder Paul Martin, are training wild camels, breeding, researching and pioneering the way.
Jeff is concerned for camel welfare and told us horrible yet true stories of the brutal decimation of the wild camel population in Australia.
Policymakers neglect camels yet these desert animals are built for our harsh climate.
They eat weed plants such as prickly pear, they don’t need lush green pastures, and companion-herds of camels and cows have a higher survival rate.
Camels make good guards, they have greater intelligence than most dogs. And they can take you on very, very long walks.
Back at the homestead, we enjoyed camel cheese-tasting and camel milk. I had an instant attraction to straight camel milk with no discernible aftertaste.
There are camel products available, Persian Feta, hand lotion and soaps.
Although the Summer Land Camel Farm lunch menu looked tasty, we reboarded our coach and headed into the hamlet of Harrisville for a pub lunch and then the tourist route home.
I’m going back for a camel ride!