Opening the back door of her Hyundai i30, Yasmin Brisbane gently squeezed in — as a 40kg camel sprawled out across her lap.
The baby camel, Starr, had just injured her leg and needed to urgently see the vet.
Unfortunately for Yasmin, her small hatchback was the only car available to make the run.
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“I don’t think I’ll be able to get the smell out of my car from that trip,” Yasmin tells 7Life laughing.
The 33-year-old is a second-generation camel farmer, her parents first having mustered wild camels from the Australian desert when Yasmin was just in her teens.
Becoming a farmer herself wasn’t her first career choice — she once dreamt of having an acting career.
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But she slowly fell head over heels for the sweet-natured mammals, which she now considers part of the family.
“We have 110 camels now – they’re like siblings and I have to fight for attention,” Yasmin jokes.
“The camels came first – they still do.
“You know horse people? Well, camel people are a level up. We are a whole different level of crazy.”
When Yasmin was 16, her parents had the “brilliant idea” of starting their own camel farm.
However, with backgrounds in fashion and mining, the pair had no real idea about either camels or farming.
But they believed camels were underutilised in drought-stricken Queensland.
Yasmin is a second generation camel farmer. Credit: Hayley Elle Photography
So, they decided on a whim to open a farm to commercially produce camel milk and other camel products, including skincare.
Camel milk is thought to promote multiple health benefits, being higher in vitamins B and C and iron than cow’s milk.
Yasmin describes the family’s farm, on the Sunshine Coast, as the only certified organic camel farm in the world, and says it was the first commercial camel dairy in Australia.
QCamel now produces more than 40,000 litres of camel milk a year, selling out of the sought-after product on a weekly basis.
It has also branched out into other camel products, including skincare.
Yasmin helps run her family Camel Farm in Queensland. Credit: Hayley Elle Photography
Despite having grown up around camels, Yasmin didn’t necessarily see herself caring for the 800kg animal.
“I was in my last year of high school when we got our first camel,” Yasmin says.
“I was absolutely petrified of them. They are quite scary. Mum and Dad thought I was a big wuss.”
Eventually, the teen grew to love the mammals some of which were as tall as three metres, and became known to her friends as “Camel Girl”.
“It’s like being Horse Girl but better,” she laughs.
The Brisbanes currently have 110 camels in their backyard. Credit: Supplied
When the Brisbanes began building up their herd of camels, they turned to outback Australia.
Camels run wild in the desert, thousands having been introduced as early as the 1840s to help build infrastructure in remote areas.
The animals thrived in the hot climate of Australia and today there is an estimated wild population in remote central Australia of 750,000.
“At first we had to muster, catch and train them,” Yasmin explains.
“It’s not that simple with 9 foot, 600kg camels.”
Before too long, their first 20 camels populated their paddock.
“It was a lot of trial and error – we had to learn a lot,” she says.
The Queenslander says mustering camels through the farm gates is the easiest part of the operation.
The biggest challenge is collecting their milk.
And not just because of their sheer size.
“Camels are very intelligent creatures,” Yasmin says.
“There’s a bit of foreplay (involved), you don’t just go straight in for the udder.
“We need to build relationships with them, we talk to them, we (even) synch our breath up with theirs.”
The Brisbanes also sing to the camels as part of gaining their trust, and it’s not unusual to spot them humming a kind of lullaby into their ears.
Yasmin says it’s all to do with putting the animal first.
Yasmin has named all 110 camels at Qcamel. Credit: Supplied
If the camel refuses to be milked, the Brisbanes don’t force the issue, even if they have spent hours moving it around the farm and into the dairy.
They also don’t separate a calf from its mother, with Yasmin explaining that the commercial operation “shares” the mother’s milk with the baby.
Every birth at the farm is celebrated – even those of the males, which don’t produce milk.
And with a camel’s gestation period being 13 months, there’s huge excitement when there is a newborn calf.
Each camel is given a name, and Yasmin prides herself on being able to identify all 110 of them.
QCamel’s gentle and ethical approach to camel farming has seen its business explode.
Yasmin now uses her acting talents on TikTok and shares behind the scenes tours of camel farming.
She credits social media for the farm’s rapid success, saying she has seen a 30 per cent rise in sales since she began producing videos about its work.
The family has expanded into chocolate, yoghurt, cheese and other dairy products, and their camel-inspired skincare range has also seen a huge increase.
They have opened the farm to tourism, too, allowing visitors to see their ethical approach to farming up close.
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