The Grand Matriarch

Camel milk, camel meat, camel feta, camel gelato, camel vodka, camels have it all! That’s what I discovered on my recent visit to the Summer Land Camel Farm. Just a 45- minute drive west of Brisbane is the world’s third-largest camel dairy. (Admittedly the other two, located in the Middle East, are considerably bigger.)

The maternity wing

Summer Land Camels began in 2015 with wild camels taken from the Australian desert where they are considered a pest. Around 20,000 camels were introduced from the Middle East in the 1840s to enable explorers to travel through the desert. They were even used by Cobb and Co. But with the advent of rail and road transport they were no longer needed and set free to wreak havoc on the Australian landscape.

According to an ABC Landline report from 2020, camels do immense damage to native vegetation, waterways, and infrastructure. They also destroy sacred Aboriginal sites. And while camels can go up to a month without water, they can drink 100-200 litres in a few minutes. In fact they will push cattle out of the way to take water from farm troughs, and when it’s all gone they will set about destroying the trough to find more. Our guide told us if camels show up at your property, sit down, pour yourself a drink and just wait while they break into your kitchen and smash the taps to get at the water, because you won’t be able to stop them. You’re only allowed to shoot them if you have a license, and anyway, there’ll be more where they came from.

A baby camel leaving white frothy slobber all over my jacket sleeve

But for all that, they’re cute! Visit the farm for the experience of being kissed and cuddled by a camel. You can even buy your very own camel for a pet. And as for the spitting? Not true. What is true is that if they’re unhappy they’ll vomit at you.

The whole dairy

After your tour, you’ll get to sample camel milk, feta, and sausage, and also body cream. Camel milk has been found to be more nutrient-dense than cows’ milk, is great for gut health, and is tolerated by people who can’t drink cow, goat, or sheep’s milk. Its antimicrobial properties mean it can’t be used to make blue-vein cheese because it kills off the bacteria that gives the cheese its properties. The down-side? It’s expensive: $14 for a litre. That’s because while a cow can produce up to 60 litres a day, camels will give just 5-6 litres. And unlike cows, camels don’t have their calves taken away or they’ll stop producing, so the babies stay in a separate paddock while their mothers are milked.

Camel train

The farm does camel rides, tours, and has a cafe serving all manner of camel derived foods as well as shots of their Camel Milk and Honey vodka. It’s a lovely day out.

(Apologies for the title; I couldn’t help myself)

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