Camels and silk worms don’t immediately come to mind when you think of beauty products, instead the words conjure images of Bedouin traders and vast stretches of sandy desert. However in a small corner of Australia innovative producers Debra and Stan Corbett run Camel Milk Australia (located in the South Burnett region of QLD) in conjunction with a Droughtmaster cattle stud. I was fortunate to be given a gift pack of Camel Milk Australia products late last year and was mighty impressed so I was pleased when Debra agreed to join me on-line to talk a little about her intriguing business.

  1. Can you tell me where you’re located? Camel Milk Australia is situated 4km from the heart of Blackbutt on the property, Bindanoon. There is 1650 acres of forest grazing run at a Droughtmaster Stud with 150 breeders and progeny plus 25 camels.

2. Is it a family business? If so when was it established and how did you get into the camel product business?  Operated by my husband Stan and myself with occasional help from our daughter (Tiffany). I started milking the camels in 2010 initially just to see if I could do it.  After researching the milk I was amazed that no one here in Australia was doing anything with this precious resource. After successfully milking my next step was to do something with the milk.  Hence Camel Milk & Silk Soap was born.  With some help from a professional soap maker I managed to formulate a recipe that has worked.

3. You use silkworms to spin the silk that is incorporated into your products. Where do you source your silk worms from?  I was given my first batch of silkworms from my Aunt.  I am well known in Blackbutt for raiding mulberry trees for leaves when the eggs are hatching.

4. How is the silk incorporated into your products? This is where my professional soap maker tried to help.  The silk that is added to conditioners, shampoos etc is a chemical based liquid.  I wanted my soap to be as natural as possible but she felt that it was not possible to blend raw silk into milk based soap.  I did eventually work out a way to get the silk to break down naturally then it just blended beautifully into the soap.

5. What is the benefit of adding silk to your products? The silk thread is just protein; the only difference I noted after the silk had been added was my skin felt really slippery and squeaky clean.  The idea of adding the silk was just to make it more exotic…thought it went well with the image of camels and the Silk Road.

6. Silkworms use to be notoriously difficult to keep alive.  I have had no trouble keeping them alive. Just keep them in a cool place as they do not like very hot weather. What is their preferred environment / food? Mulberry leaves are great you can give them lettuce leaves if you would like some green silk and beetroot leaves for purple silk.

7. How many camels do you run? What do they eat? We run 25 camels here at present.  They are fed daily Alpaca pellets then left in their paddocks.  They run really well with the cattle with only a 25% cross over of vegetation.  The camels prefer woody weeds and eucalypt regrowth.

8. How do they differ in the stockyards compared with working with cattle? They are extremely intelligent and do not like to be pushed or rushed.  You need to spend a lot of quiet time with them.  Once they are familiar with want you are doing they walk very easily from one yard to the next.  At milking time the girls are so used to the routine I just open gates and point and they walk through.

9. You use camel milk in your soaps. Are they as easy to milk as a cow? No they are not as easy as a cow.  Firstly they do not just drop their milk.  The baby must suckle to get the milk to flow.  I then milk out 3 treats and let the baby suckle on one.  Usual amount can vary between 3 & 5 litres.  They are separated from their baby during the night then milked first thing in the morning.

10. What are some of your products? I have built up quite a range now with Camel Milk & Silk Soap: including, Camel Milk and Camel Oil Soap and Pet Soap,  Camel Milk Lotion, Cream, Camel Milk & Camel Oil Day Lotion and Night Cream and Camel Oil Lip Balm.  I have added the amazing healing qualities of camel oil to my products now.  This is made from the camel hump.  To my knowledge no one is making anything with Camel Oil.  It has amazing healing benefits for the skin.  The only research I found was from a Professor in Pakistan who told me it had been used traditionally for thousands of years by Bedouins and local pastoralist to treat skin infections and also to treat mange in dogs.  The amazing Camel!