For a northern Victorian camel farmer, demand for the rare milk continues to be an udder delight — even through COVID-19 restrictions.
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ABC Sunshine Coast: Jacqui Street

Megan Williams grew up on dairy farms, but after spending time in the Northern Territory outback she became intrigued by the wild, roaming camels.

So for the past five years she has converted an old dairy farm to house, train, and milk over 300 camels mainly sourced from the outback.

“It takes a long time to train a milking camel, a lot of persistence, patience, and trusting the camels,” Ms Williams said.

“For the camels they really need to be relaxed and I have this motto that ‘happy camels give quality milk’ because camels cannot let down their milk, they cannot physically let it down, she has to feel calm and relaxed.”

Free of key dairy allergen

Although tourists and visitors are no longer allowed on the Kyabram farm because of COVID-19 restrictions, Ms Williams is keeping busy with growing demand for the milk.

“While the virus is putting a few holds on some things, we are still producing about 10,000 litres a month for the market we are currently in. But that’s set to increase,” she said.

“I think generally around the world there’s been more articles and information talking about the health benefits of camel milk.

“It’s just so nutritionally different, and one of the main ones is that it doesn’t contain the whey protein beta lactoglobulin which is one of the more better-known dairy allergens.”

Lack of understanding

Despite a spike in demand, the milk continues to fly under the radar from nutritionists in Australia.

Spokesperson for Dieticians Association of Australia, Felicity Curtain, said because the milk is not widely available there is no standardised understanding of the product yet.

“Over the years there has been a constant mumbling, but it’s a new product here and we have so much more that we need to learn about it,” Ms Curtain said.

“I think certain nutrients might be slightly higher than in cows milk like vitamin C and B vitamins.

“Overall, just like cows milk, it’s very nutritious and has a good source of protein and calcium for our bones.”

Does Ms Williams enjoy camel milk with her tea?

“Absolutely. If anyone comes and has a cup of tea here there is no normal mainstream milk. It’s in your mashed potato and scones — anything that requires milk.”

ASB hiked its expectations for Fonterra’s milk price to farmers to the top of the co-operative’s range, saying declining milk production will push payments to a record high this season.

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