An expert has weighed in on the proposed Girgarre East camel farm.
The farm has caused a stir among neighbours worried about the potential for smell, noise, and dust.
Paul Martin manages 500 ex-feral camels on his Harrisville farm in South-East Queensland — the largest camel dairy in the Southern Hemisphere.
“There is a lot of fear of the unknown. People think you need 12-foot high fences and ask ‘what happens when they get out?’ — but crikey, I haven’t had one camel get out of my place yet and I’ve had 150 cattle get in,” Mr Martin said.
“Camels don’t use a lot of water. They aren’t a wet manure animal; they don’t actually smell. The bulls do smell when in season but it is nowhere near the smell of cattle.”
Mr Martin’s farm doubles as a tourist attraction, hosting camel rides, a café and farm tours.
“At lot of people say ‘they don’t smell like I thought’,” he said.
The soft feet of camels also mean they create less dust than hoofed animals.
Mr Martin is supportive of the planned Girgarre farm, owned by Chinese company Ausnutria.
“I’ve spoken to them (Ausnutria) a few times. They are looking for camels and doing a few things. They are utilising our vet on a six-month project to get them going, actually,” he said.
“They are basically trying to do the same thing we are, which is domesticating feral Australian camels, but they are starting from a fair way back.”
Mr Martin said there would be a “lot of media and excitement” during the coming year as the camel dairy went through the approval processes.
“It is going to bring a lot of attention (to the industry) because there is a lot of money being thrown around, but you’ll still see it stop-start, stop-start,” he said.
The investment of Ausnutria into camel milk is a positive sign for Australia’s fledgling camel industry, which has struggled to gain traction domestically despite overseas success as a health product for people with diabetes, diary intolerance, and gut issues.
Mr Martin exports most of his product to Hong Kong, China, and the United States.
“Ninety-eight per cent of our market are lactose-intolerant and dairy-allergic people,” he said.
“As an emerging product we cop a lot … the first backlash we got was from the dairy industry actually which was narrow-minded. If people can drink cow milk they drink cow milk, but when they can’t digest it they either go to alternatives or don’t drink milk at all. We aren’t a competitor to cow milk, but soy and almond milk.”
Mr Martin didn’t pull his punches when talking about his lactose-free competition; he said the soy and almond industries were “held together by massive dollars … a bit like the tobacco industry”.
“Soy and almond are very easy industries to invest in. They tie up water, they tie up irrigated land, and they give an economic return. You cannot get a better agricultural investment than soy and almond … if big corporations can create scarcity they can create their own inflatable wealth,” he said.
“To be drinking something as highly processed as almond milk and soy milk, it doesn’t make sense if you know how gut biology works.”
Mr Martin is chief executive of the Australian Wild Camel Corporation which operates the Summer Land Camels brand.