A camel dairy. It’s not the most obvious choice when you might think about a career in farming, but it’s just what Daisy Fossett is championing in Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire.
The 24-year-old launched the UK’s first camel dairy in 2021 alongside her family, diversifying out of the entertainment sector and into farming.
“It’s the exact opposite of what most people in farming are looking to do when it comes to diversification,” Daisy told Student Farmer.
The move to milking camels, which she added had been on the cards for at least ten years, was finally sparked by the Covid pandemic when the entertainment side of her parents’ business, Joseph’s Amazing Camels, was forced to grind to a halt.
“We always knew we would have to diversify in some way, and we always wanted to,” she explained. “You have to move with the times in order to survive as a business, no matter what it is. This is why all farmers are diversifying. The only difference is we’ve gone into farming, whereas farmers go out of farming.”
The business was started by Daisy’s parents, whose eyes met over a bucket of meat. Literally.
“My dad is part of one of the oldest circus families in the world and grew up in the circus. He was a lion tamer, among other things. Mom decided to get a job as a wild animal presenter in the circus and that’s how they met: over a bucket of meat she passed to him to feed the lions.”
When the couple realised Daisy was on the way, they started Joseph’s Amazing Camels, offering camel racing and hire across the UK. Daisy, who now runs Daisy’s Dromedairy Ltd as creative director, said she didn’t originally plan to get into farming, but the camels stole her heart.
“I always wanted to do something with the camels, I knew that that was my thing. But as any young farmer will tell you, it’s very hard to work with your parents, no matter who they are. It’s not an easy decision. I worked for them full-time when I was 18 and then I went travelling and to uni, but the camels were always in the back of my mind. I was always going to be drawn back to them in some shape or form, I just didn’t know how.”
The dairy started with the purchase of three pregnant milking camels from Germany and now sees Daisy offering raw camel milk, chocolates and soap made with camel milk. She explained camel’s milk has a number of medicinal benefits, adding: “It’s an amazing superfood with a lot of benefits in that many other milks don’t have.”
But it’s not been an easy ride. “I don’t think any of us knew what we were getting ourselves into,” Daisy said, adding that with those first three pregnant camels “everything that could have gone wrong, did”. The issues ranged from a delayed milking machine to an early first birth and huge calf who couldn’t lift his head up, let alone stand and suckle.
“We had to milk his mom and then bottle feed him and check on him every hour for about 12 hours before teaching him how to suckle. This whole ordeal took place over a week, and as soon as that one was fine, the next one popped out.”
And learning to milk the camels was a task in itself.
“They aren’t like cows,” Daisy said. “Milking itself is not easy. Camels are very emotional, they really have to trust you.”
She added: “It’s been a journey. Every pitfall, we’ve fallen into it, we’ve been there, and we’ve done it.
“It’s not been easy but we’ll keep going. I think that’s how general farming works!”
A helping hand
Help from friends with dairy farms has been invaluable.
“Our dairy farm friends have been our absolute heroes. They’ve come out and shown us things like how to even turn the machine on because it’s not simple. If you’ve never seen a portable milking machine, you wouldn’t have the first clue how it works. It’s been a lot of trial and error, but slowly we’ve come up with our own way of doing things and what works for us.”
Daisy’s Dromedairy currently has four milking camels which are milked once a day – a process that takes about 45 minutes. This is in addition to a further 14 camels which make up the family’s herd across their 30 acres, on which they also house a number of ‘racing pigs’, a couple of donkeys, a horse and make their own hay.
“Camels produce about 10 litres of milk a day and we get, depending on where they are in their cycle, between one and three litres from each camel, so it’s not a huge amount. The calves get the rest of it and are really healthy and very happy, which is the way I want to keep it.”
When the camels aren’t being used for milking, Daisy explained they like to be kept busy.
“They milk for about two years, or as long as they’re happy to, and then they’re dried off for around six months to let their bodies recover. We have one camel currently that is drying off so we might take her racing so she’s not bored. The thing with camels is they’re so intelligent, they need a job and not to be in a field for six months. They go a bit stir crazy.”
Ideally, Daisy explained, the business would have three camel herds: “You need the milking herd, the dried off herd, and the pregnant herd to help keep the whole thing going.”
She’s also keen to improve camels’ reputation among the general public.
“They have an awful reputation. So many people ask if they spit or bite. I always compare it to dogs, if you treat them badly, they’ll act badly. They’re gentle giants and when you look after them, they’re really lovely. When they greet one another they’ll touch each other’s noses to say hi, and they do that now with us too.”
Walk on the wild side?
But despite their sweet nature, Daisy was careful to stress how important it is to do your homework if you’re mulling over the idea of diversifying into unusual animals.
“Do your research,” she said firmly. “Spend time with those animals if you can and learn about them before you go into something like this because, no matter if it’s camels or snakes, whatever it is, you need to know how to look after them because otherwise you will run into problems. Talk to people, talk to us, ask us questions. We will advise you the best we can.”
And it’s the same story for anyone looking to diversify on a less unusual scale.
“Go to as many people as you can and just ask questions,” Daisy reiterated. “We’ve been so lucky that, because we live in a farming area, we have so many friends who are dairy farmers. That’s number one.
“It is really scary, it’s terrifying going into the unknown but just go for it. You are going to come across failure, and you are going to cry, but you will find your way.”
For Daisy’s camels’ raw milk, chocolate boxes and soap, contact Joseph's Amazing Camels (@jacamels) on Instagram or visit www.jacamels.co.uk for details.