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Kirsty Hammond


From Whakatane to the world

 

It’s not often that scientific research has positive implications for both farmers and environmentalists. But that’s exactly what Massey PhD student Kirsty Hammond’s work is managing to do, with national, and international implications.

An animal-lover from a farming background, Kirsty is looking at how to get cows and sheep to produce less methane, and more of the products that contribute to our economy.

Global implications

At present, the tiny microbes that live in ruminants (animals like cows and sheep) stomachs convert from two to twelve percent of grass into methane.

As one of the most toxic of greenhouse gases, methane has a high global warming potential, contributing to the degradation of the ozone layer. With agriculture making up a huge part of New Zealand’s output, there’s potential for huge economic, and environmental gain if this can be turned into other things.

If even an incremental part of that energy could be converted into meat, wool or meat instead of gas, it could amount to an exponential increase in profits for the farming industry.

So Kirsty is investigating how those microbes deal with cow’s feed, and what the implications of different feed are for the cow’s methane output.

Love of animals

From an early age, Kirsty was focussed on working on her parent’s dairy farm in Whakatane. It was her family that pushed her into further study. When she investigated her options, she was delighted to discover that she could combine her love of animals with her love of farming.

Her affinity with animals originally sent her in the direction of veterinary science, but she found that her physics was not strong enough. After visiting a careers advisor, she discovered the myriad of other options at Massey for those with a desire to work with animals. She settled on a Bachelor of Science degree in animal science and physiology.

Thriving on challenge

That degree simply ignited a desire for more in-depth learning, so Kirsty went on to do her honours in rumen development in deer, before moving on to her current PhD.

Today she is working closely with scientists at Massey University's Institute of Veterinary Animal and Biomedical Sciences, and AgResearch's Grasslands facility while doing her research.

 “I love the learning part of it,” says Kirsty. “I’m learning something new all the time. It’s not the same repetitive work that I go to work every day to do. I love the challenge of it.”

There is no doubt that it is a huge challenge. Kirsty can spend days measuring what is happening during cow’s digestion only to come to a dead end. But the enormous potential of this research keeps her going. If she can work out how to manipulate those microbes to earn more and waste less, the benefits will be massive, for New Zealand, and the world.

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From Whakatane to the world

Hammond-Kirsty-2.jpg It’s not often that scientific research has positive implications for both farmers and environmentalists. But that’s exactly what Massey PhD student Kirsty Hammond’s work is managing to do, with national, and international implications.

 

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