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A milking cow produces around 400grams of methane a day on average. That doesn’t sound like much. But multiply that by the millions of cows in our pastures, and you have a lot of energy. That’s where Kirsty comes in.
She’s working on how to better understand and get ruminants like cows and sheep to stop burping methane so much.
Kirsty’s PhD project, a joint one between with Massey University and AgResearch, focussed on exploring methane emissions from sheep and cattle (ruminants) fed fresh-forage diets of white clover and perennial ryegrass. The idea was to look more closely at the ruminants diet, and see if certain diets produced more methane emissions (by the microbes in the ruminant gastro-intestinal tract) than other diet types.
If that can be better understood it would mean we could feed cows and sheep so they put less energy into burping, and more into producing milk and meat.
That would be a win-win for the environment and for farming.
From a farm in Whakatane to internationally-significant research, Kirsty Hammond has come a long way. Dr Hammond says she initially wanted to be a vet when she began at Massey, but wasn’t selected after her first year, so followed her farming roots into a Bachelor of Animal Science.
Her Phd research showed the energy loss to methane decreased as feed intakes increased.
This research is a win-win situation for farmers as well as the environment. “It’s all about energy in the end,” she says. “Methane is a waste of energy for that animal, so trying to harness that and turn it into something more productive is the goal. Of course, climate change also makes it harder to farm due to the changing conditions, so there’s incentive there too.”
Today she is doing a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at The University of Reading in the UK, doing similar work to her PhD i.e looking at nutrition, diets, feeding and methane excretion.
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Last updated on Tuesday 16 August 2016