Dr Danila Marini (27) believes sheep are smart and she’s determined to prove it - and she’s
not even a Kiwi! Danila works as a research scientist with the University of New England in
Armidale in northern New South Wales, and through multiple degrees and research projects
has always had the welfare of sheep in the front of her mind.
This passion for the humble ovine began in childhood when her family bought a hobby farm
in the Adelaide Hills and Danila took to hand-rearing the lambs. She continued this interest
through high school where she learnt basic husbandry techniques and realised, contrary to
popular belief, that sheep were actually pretty smart. This inspired her to complete a Bachelor
of Science Degree at Adelaide University.
As it became time to undertake her honours project Danila assessed the plethora of
agricultural and animal career opportunities before her and began to imagine where her future
might lead. She knew she wanted to work with sheep because of their importance to
Australian agriculture and she knew she wanted to help the industry. It became clear to
Danila that her path would be to help through the greater understanding of animal welfare.
That took her to Armidale and a PhD aiming to train sheep to self-administer pain-relieving
drugs through their food. While she couldn’t demonstrate the animals would voluntarily take
the drugs she did prove that pain relief, in the form of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, in
pellets could be successfully delivered to castrated and tail-docked lambs.
Danila is now working with virtual fencing for sheep, looking at the potential for using a
system of GPS and algorithms to contain animals within a boundary through the use of an
audio cue; a system that will allow farmers to set up virtual fences from their computers. It is
exciting technology and has great potential for the sheep industry, especially for vast
properties where fencing is either impractical or too costly.
“I have always wanted to work with animals - they have always been my passion - but my
love for working with livestock started in my animal science degree where I got to work
closely with sheep. Following this love has led me to where I am today. My work is an
exciting space to be in: Being able to work with sheep and talk to farmers and see their
excitement in the future of technology and farming.”
Danila, your love of sheep and research will only benefit us Kiwis over the ditch, keep up the great work! It will be fascinating to watch your virtual fencing technology grow and develop throughout the primary industries.