Mak­ing a for­tune out of camel milk

He­bei na­tive over­came early set­backs to build suc­cess­ful busi­ness

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By ZHANG YU in Tang­shan, He­bei zhangyu1@chi­

Age 28 and just six years out of col­lege, Zheng Lin­lin is al­ready a rich woman.

The na­tive of Tang­shan in North China’s He­bei province can earn in ex­cess of 1 mil­lion yuan ($150,000) per year sell­ing camels and their milk.

But her for­tune didn’t come eas­ily.

Back in 2010, Zheng met with strong op­po­si­tion from her fam­ily when she started out in her new ca­reer, which they called “ab­surd”.

“They thought a col­lege grad­u­ate should find a ‘de­cent’ job do­ing white-col­lar work, not deal­ing with camels, which they said was hu­mil­i­at­ing,” Zheng said.

“My mom wor­ried I would fail and lose all my money be­cause camels are a rare kind of live­stock in places with a sub­hu­mid cli­mate.”

Her mother’s wor­ries were not ground­less — camels in China mainly in­habit arid grass­land ar­eas in the In­ner Mon­go­lia and Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gions.

But Zheng in­sisted on try­ing to make the busi­ness work.

“I learned in col­lege that camel milk has a high vi­ta­min and min­eral con­tent, and most im­por­tantly, it has ther­a­peu­tic value for di­a­bet­ics,” she said, adding that pre­vi­ous meth­ods of camel milk pro­duc­tion in China were at the “sub­sis­tence” level.

“I wanted to de­velop a camel milk in­dus­try, and the mar­ket for fresh camel milk was promis­ing — cus­tomers need it for med­i­cal pur­poses or as a nu­tri­tious food.”

Al­though the prospects were good, Zheng’s ca­reer started out poorly.

The camels she bought from In­nerMon­go­lia were not welladapted to the hu­mid­ity in Tang­shan.

“I couldn’t even find a vet who could treat my camels when they were ill,” she said.

So Zheng trav­eled to In­ner Mon­go­lia, about 300 km from Tang­shan, to get some ex­pert ad­vice.

She was ad­vised to feed the camels salty grasses and fod­der while try­ing to recre­ate the liv­ing con­di­tions they were adapted to.

Even so, ill­ness, death and low yields meant Zheng lost more than 1 mil­lion yuan dur­ing her first three years of busi­ness.

But de­spite these set­backs, Zheng learned how to feed the camels cor­rectly and how to han­dle their ill­nesses, lead­ing to sta­bi­lized yields.

Now she has 170 camels — 50 are milk-pro­duc­ing fe­males, while the rest are to sell or for tourists.

“Since the price of camel’s milk is much higher than that for cow’s milk, few peo­ple drink it in the same way,” Zheng said, adding that her most fre­quent cus­tomers are ei­ther af­flu­ent or di­a­bet­ics.

At cur­rent­mar­ket rates, half a liter of camel milk costs 198 yuan, while cow’s milk costs less than 10 yuan.

“It’s a lux­ury food,” Zheng said.

With her busi­ness now flour­ish­ing, Zheng has opened a branch of her farm in Bei­jing and plans to launch an­other in Shang­hai this Oc­to­ber.

“When I started my ca­reer, I wouldn’t go to reunion par­ties with my class­mates be­cause I was afraid of be­ing shunned for rais­ing camels,” she said.

“Now, I still don’t go, be­cause I am too busy with the camels.”


Zheng Lin­lin cleans her camel farm in Tang­shan, He­bei province.

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