A Victorian couple is exporting camel milk and other camel-milk products to the world.
Story and Photos Melanie Faith Dove
In 2008, Chris Williams, a Welsh truck driver with no former farming experience, and 20-year-old Victorian Megan Warren sparked an outback romance while working together on Andado cattle station outside of Alice Springs. “I’m not a farmer’s wife,” jokes Megan, “he’s a farmer’s husband!”
A year later they settled in northern Victoria share-farming with Megan’s family on their rotary dairy property but grew keen to build their own farming enterprise with a point of difference. They couldn’t see a way out of the cycle of getting bigger and working harder for only marginally increased profits. “At the end of the day you are controlled by what the milk companies want to pay you,” Chris says.
Then, in 2014, they stumbled upon a program highlighting the unique qualities of camel milk, which doesn’t contain beta lacto globulin, the main whey protein found in bovine milk, and is lower in lactose and cholesterol. It reminded Megan of her absolute fascination with feral camels and she said to Chris, “I love camels, we love farming, we can do this”. Camel milk has been consumed in the Middle East, Asia and Africa for centuries, but the Australian industry was still in its infancy, with relatively few dairies operating on a small scale. And that is how the couple came to pilot Victoria’s first licensed camel-milk operation at Kyabram, later named The Camel Milk Co. Australia.
Unlike the bovine milk industry, where knowledge sharing and growth is encouraged, members of the isolated camel community weren’t willing to divulge their niche skill set. Going it alone, Megan and Chris purchased three ‘prototype’ camels from whom they learned behavioural and handling techniques, and they custom-designed and modified their farm and existing dairy.
“We had to get the flow right, making sure it was smooth and not erratic,” Chris says. “The girls have to be 100 percent relaxed and happy to give you the milk, so you have to have a close relationship with your camels – you just can’t employ anybody.”
This story excerpt is from Issue #123
Outback Magazine: February/March 2019