Dr Lida Omaleki, Runner Up of the AgriFutures Australia Research Awards

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Lida Omaleki

Lida Omaleki is a long way from where she grew up – but from Iran to Australia, the Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine feels right at home in the University of Queensland labs, where she’s completing important work in support of a healthy, efficient chicken meat industry.

Dr Lida Omaleki is from the northern, rainy part of Iran where agriculture is the key driver of the local economy and the bedrock of countless family incomes.

“My father was a farmer and landlord, and we ran a traditional dairy farm along with sheep and goats and other animals, as well as farming rice, cotton, barely, wheat, and more,” Lida reflected.

“Animals were my greatest love from an incredibly early age and from the beginning – as far back as I can remember – I had always wanted to be a vet.

“My Dad wasn’t too keen on that idea and thought I should focus on doing a job that was more suitable for a woman – in his opinion anyway.

Lida Omaleki

“I remember once we had goats with mastitis and he had me join him when the vet came to check them and he said, ‘Lida, look at this – do you really want to do this for the rest of your life?’ and I still said yes straight way.”

True to her word, Lida went on to study at the University of Tehran – and her experience with mastitis in animals would pave the way for her future career.

“I had a soft spot for dairy cattle and gained my Doctorate with a focus on research into mastitis and pregnancy testing in dairy cattle,” she said

“When I graduated, I did work in quality assurance with a company that was making livestock premix while pursuing my passion in dairy herd health management and especially nutrition and mastitis.

“Dairy cattle farming in Iran is intensive and not pasture-based. It is highly dependent on a total mixed ration with a high level of grain to support the high level of milk production while keeping the health and reproduction rate at a high level.”

In 2008, Lida applied to do her PhD in microbiology at the University of Melbourne. She was not only successful, but she also won a scholarship to make the move to Australia and take on the next phase of her research.

“I did my PhD on sheep mastitis and got to know Australian farmers, especially Poll Dorset sheep producers as these sheep were more susceptible to mastitis,” she said.

“As part of my research I travelled extensively through Victoria and a little bit in South Australia too, and I fell in love with the way Australian agriculture exists. I love the way producers live and work – it is a special thing that I don’t take for granted working in this industry.”

It’s a love and respect Lida took with her to a new role at the University of Queensland’s Centre for Animal Science within the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), where she’s recently completed an AgriFutures chicken meat research project that will help the chicken industry deal with fowl cholera.

“Since there has been an increase in free range production, fowl cholera is proving to be an issue with more chickens being exposed to the elements and different disease-causing agents,” Lida explained.

“As part of the project we looked at historical data using a novel molecular approach to identify why vaccination didn’t work at some stages to try to understand what tools we need to better understand fowl cholera and prevent its spread.

“I think it is important that people understand the impact of the free-range system because while there’s a consumer appetite for animal welfare, we also need to ensure that the livestock aren’t being affected through biosecurity risks.”

Now a mother of two young children, Lida said the young version of herself would never have imagined life in another country, working as a research fellow.

“I always wanted to be a vet and I am so happy that I did it, because it has led me to so many wonderful opportunities,” she said.

“Being named Runner Up in the AgriFutures Research Awards means a great deal to me and it’s a pleasure to be recognised – not personally, but as part of a team that is working to help the chicken meat industry and Australian agriculture.

“It’s an honour and it’s already given me more energy to keep doing what I’m doing and continue to work with industry. I want to make sure that our research clearly shows the benefits of investing in science, because it’s the best way we can continue to support the industry.

“Researchers are here to help! We are willing and able to push the science forward through working hand in hand with industry and continue to support each other.”

To read the AgriFutures Australia Chicken Meat Program funded research report which led to Lida being named Runner Up of the AgriFutures Australia Research Awards, visit: https://agrifutures.com.au/product/clouds-and-pasteurella-multocida/

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