Margie Bale’s infectious can-do attitude is the key to her success as a camel vet

07.10.20

To celebrate International Day of Rural Women, we are shining a light on some of the incredible women from regional, rural and remote parts of Australia who we get to work with at AgriFutures Australia. One of these incredible women is Margie Bale.

Margie Bale’s career has taken some unexpected turns. Turns which have led her to being one of Australia’s only camel veterinarians.

From working as a mixed practice vet north of Brisbane, to a stint in rural England, to working in Emerald and becoming a cattle vet, Margie found her calling when she started working for producers and farmers.

“I realised that agriculture is where it’s at for me – these are my people! The industry is progressive, driven by doing the best for the animals and improving the bottom line. Producers want good information that can help their animals and I’ve always felt supported working as a woman in agriculture,” said Margie.

Margie made the very unique transition from cattle to camels. She was working at the University of Queensland clinic and was contracted to be an on-call vet at the Brisbane Ekka – looking after everything from turkeys to goats and cows – when she was asked by someone starting a camel milk dairy if she had any experience with camels.

“I’d worked with alpacas, who are camelids too, and the odd camel plus my main interest then was in dairy medicine and surgery so I thought to myself, ‘I can make this work’. It was a matter of taking the best practice I’d learned working with cattle and applying it to camels. It’s not where I imagined ending up, but here I am working full-time with camels!”

Margie Bale holding a camel

For Margie working as a camel vet has required enthusiasm, innovation, invention and problem solving skills from the outset.

“What I love about working with camels is that it’s true problem solving. I came into this field with no prejudice or preconceptions and learnt quickly there’s no such thing as a bad idea. It’s all about having a crack and finding a way,” said Margie.

One of Margie’s most recent achievements is a research project supported by AgriFutures Australia’s Emerging Industries Program which has seen the development of a new test that can confirm pregnancy in wild camels.

“Now there is a simple blood test for camel pregnancy that can be performed safely, efficiently, and reliably at the point of capture. Buyers from camel dairies can have confidence now when they’re expanding their herds with wild camels, and we’re all not relying on the common theory that a pregnant camel holds her tail straight all the time.”

“I’m really proud of having been able to apply a veterinary mindset in order to help a commercial agricultural industry.”

Along with veterinary work, Margie is playing an important role in the potential development of a camel meat industry in Australia.

“Camels are so well suited to our arid country and are a great source of protein. Their growth rates are excellent and it’s even possible to co-graze camels and cattle together.”

“It’s a case of thinking creatively in order to keep our agricultural industries thriving. How can we couple together what we do now with new ideas and how can we select animals that are well-suited to the environment we have? People might not know much about camels but that’s no reason to write them off. Their physiology is incredible and the way they have adapted to thrive in a dry environment is one of their most fascinating traits.”

International Day of Rural Women

We have launched a hashtag #hatsofftoruralwomen across our social media channels and encourage you to use this hashtag and share the stories of the rural, regional and remote women you work with and the reasons why they inspire you.

For more information about the United Nations’ International Day of Rural Women, please visit: https://www.un.org/en/observances/rural-women-day