Nigel, Sheeba, Frank, Ralph and Bubba arrived on our cattle property this year. Only they are not cows. They are camels.
It was Friday the 13th, it was a full moon and, to prove we’re not always certifiably sane, my better half decided it was a smart idea to add camels to the farm stock.
Well there were two valid reasons behind the seeming madness. For one thing, camels will eat weeds and browse vegetation the cattle don’t eat. And the second reason had all to do with pro-biotic yoghurt – well that is the best way I can explain it. Camels have a certain gut bacteria that when transferred to the cows via drinking water is supposed to make the cows more resilient in dry times. So hey – let’s get camels.
What did the better half and I know about camels before that Friday the 13th?
Undeterred by the lack of camel knowledge we toddled off to a farm not far from here that had seven camels for sale; three of which had maybe been handled before. We also took with us Nigel, a truckie who knew as much about camels as we did. Can you see where this is going?
The camels were already in the yards when we arrived so it was just a matter of getting them onto the truck.
Camel lesson No.1: Tall camels with high humps aren’t really suited to cattle loading races.
First camel up the race was the big bull. He got to within a foot of the truck and stopped. For an hour.
After he deemed it an appropriate time to board, we started on the next camel – a young calf. Thankfully the little fella was so confused he ran straight onto the truck and we imagined we would be home before dark.
Then it rained.
It took us another two hours to load another three camels. Then camels six and seven sat down in the yards.
Camel lesson No.2: Camels sulk.
There was no way known that camels six and seven were coming with us so after a total of four hours we breathed a sigh of relief and headed home with five camels, thinking the worst was over.
It took 12 hours to get them off the truck!!!
Back at our yards with all the truck gates open the big bull camel (now affectionately known as Nigel) took one look at our loading race and said “Nup”.
We weren’t going to force them so we went out to dinner. We got home at 9pm. The camels were still on the truck. We went to bed. It rained again. Next morning the camels were still on the truck.
Desperate we drove the truck into the paddock and unhinged the entire back gate. Nigel said “Oh that’s better” and jumped off in about two seconds flat taking his little herd with him.
However then we had another problem.
Camel lesson No. 3: Horses hate camels.
Sally, the blue-eyed rastafarian guard horse, was not happy. “Holy cow,” she said as she galloped down to the house. “Have you seen what’s in the paddock? Come quick. And bring the gun.” Then she galloped back up the hill, around her cows and then back down to the house. “You are kidding, right?” she glared at the better half. “You can’t be serious.”
A week after the arrival the unbroken camels had made themselves at home. In addition to the big bull Nigel we have Sheeba the female, Ralph her bull calf, Bubba (another bull calf) and Frank the teenage bull. We have since been told we shouldn’t have bull camels. Anyone out there with camel castration experience?
The cows are unfazed by their new paddock mates and Sally eventually stopped trembling. She will now get to within 50m of the funny humped, strange smelling, long-legged, snaky-necked demons – but only if her cows are between her and the camels.
We have pretty much let the camels be since we got them, but a couple of weeks ago we went to the camel races in Tara ………………………………..
Reckon you could see me as a camel jockey?
If you’d like to see more camel images or learn more about camel racing check out my upcoming story on the Tara Festival of Culture and Camel Races in Australian Geographic.