Ag research

Charles Sturt student pushes agricultural research forward

Hailing from a family farm at Cumnock in Central West New South Wales (NSW), Lucy Watt has always had a love of agriculture. But when she started studying with Charles Sturt University her interest in agriculture research grew into a passion that can’t be stopped!

“My family has a prime lamb property and my dad is also an agronomist, which piqued my interest in the interaction between soils, plants and animal health.”

Lucy’s passion guided her to study an agriculture-based degree at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. She completed a Bachelor of Animal Science and went on to spend an Honours year in Michigan in the United States (US), which sparked her curiosity for agriculture research – and her interest in undertaking a PhD.

“Animals have been a really big part of my life. I love the research side of the industry and there aren’t many young people who tend to go into agriculture. I saw it as a really good career choice for me,” Lucy said.

Lucy Watt

“Agricultural research is especially enticing. Farmers and people in the industry are always looking at ways to improve the industry, allowing it to go from strength to strength. And what’s more exciting than being able to contribute to your industry from the ground roots?”

Through her PhD, Lucy is investigating a second generation of annual pasture legumes and their impact on livestock – specifically sheep production.

“I’m looking at growth rates of the animals but also how the plant affects the animal from a metabolism aspect – how they are metabolising and how is it affecting their production and ultimately, their health,” Lucy said.

In early 2017, Lucy’s hard work was recognised with an Australia Day Award, sponsored by the Country Women’s Association Sydney City branch, to help further her postgraduate studies.

Lucy’s PhD has also generated interest in the Riverina area of NSW – the location of her PhD study. Her research has been very timely, as many of the legumes being studied are currently being introduced into grazing rotations. These legumes are more drought-tolerant and able to thrive in adverse conditions, so local farmers are interested in her project results, as it could allow them to remain sustainable and viable into the future.

Lucy completed her thesis relocated to Brisbane. In the short term, she wants to gain some more experience and make wider connections in the industry. Her long-term goal is to lecture in ruminant nutrition and livestock production, while also encouraging young people to be a part of the agriculture industry.

“I would love to encourage other young people to explore careers, not just in agricultural science and research, but in the industry as a whole,” Lucy said.

“There are no limits in agriculture – I came from a town with 250 people and I’ve travelled overseas, completed agricultural research in the US and received numerous awards as well. It just shows that if you put yourself out there and do well in the industry, it doesn’t matter where you come from – whether it’s the country or the city, big or small.”

Lucy has some great tips for others who want to become part of the agriculture industry.

“Don’t be afraid. There’s always jobs in agriculture and in my opinion, it’s probably the best career that you can get into. A career in agriculture will not only have a long and amazing impact on the industry, but also Australia as a whole. Agriculture is the backbone of our country.

Ready to kickstart your career in agriculture? Explore our range of future-focused courses and make your dream a reality today.

This piece was first published in People in Ag.