Growing up in a large city like Goiania, Brazil, may not sound all that compatible with dairy cattle research. However, Dr. Vinicius Machado knew from a very young age his life was headed for the dairy industry.
After getting his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the Federal University of Goias, Brazil, in 2008, Machado headed to Cornell University in New York to study under Dr. Rodrigo Bicalho. By 2015, he had earned his Ph.D. in animal sciences and began a residency at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine in the Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences. Two years later, Machado became the first professor hired into Texas Tech University’s new Department of Veterinary Sciences within the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
“I got very excited about the opportunity of coming here and actually getting my research program established here and getting the department to have a good relationship with local industry as well; the same way that the beef guys do out here,” Machado said.
Having arrived in Lubbock in August, his new office still lacks that lived-in look. The walls unadorned and the desktop empty save for a computer and a nameplate, Machado has a lot of work to do to get his office and the new program ready for classes in the fall of 2018.
“We are thinking of doing some online courses so that veterinarians that are a little farther away can actually get a Masters in Preventative Medicine,” Machado said. “We still have to get a good look at the curriculum of other departments and try not to cover too much of what’s already being taught in other departments.”
As far as research is concerned, Machado is thrilled about the prospects the new position will offer. His love of dairy cattle will have room to grow at Texas Tech as he says the limits on his research topics are minimal. Machado said as long as he can get his research funded, he has free range for his topics to study.
“It really seems that the department is going toward preventative medicine and population medicine, which I am also passionate about,” he said. “It’s going to be really good to start a program to teach not only veterinarians but other people that are interested in population medicine.”
“I think they saw in us a good opportunity to start a strong dairy program at Texas Tech.”
The Dairy Guys
Rafael Neves, a friend and colleague of Machado, will be joining him as a faculty member in the new department. Neves was also at Cornell before coming to Tech and shares Machado’s interest in dairy cattle.
“I knew they were interviewing my friend, too,” Neves said. “But in the academic world, you will end up competing for jobs with your friends eventually. Luckily, they ended up hiring both of us.”
Neves arrived in Lubbock in October 2017, and he and Machado have begun working together with Dr. Mike Ballou, associate professor of ruminant nutrition and immunology, CASNR associate dean for research, and the newly appointed department head of veterinary medicine, to structure the new department and figure out the curriculum. Ballou also has an interest in dairy cattle, which has been limitedly explored at Texas Tech.
“I think one of the reasons they chose me was because Rafael and I were both dairy guys,” Machado said, “and Texas Tech ended up acknowledging that they only have Mike Ballou working with dairy here, which is not enough for the number of dairy cattle they have in the region and knowing that Texas Tech is really integrated with the local agricultural industry, and this was one thing they were missing.”
“I think they saw in us a good opportunity to start a strong dairy program at Texas Tech,” Neves said.
It is not clear yet if the new Department of Veterinary Medicine will be connected to the School of Veterinary Medicine that Texas Tech has in the works, but it is a possibility. Machado, Neves and Ballou are still figuring out how this new program will fit in with all the others CASNR has to offer.
So far, Machado and Neves are focusing solely on their research. They began touring the local dairies in West Texas in mid-October to forge relationships with the local industry. They plan to visit dairies in New Mexico to develop sturdy relationships for Tech and research opportunities for themselves.
The Family Man
When he isn’t focused on his passion for cattle and the development of the new department, Machado is a family man. He and his wife Eila, who he met on their intramural soccer team, have a new baby keeping them up at night and keeping them busy during the day.
“I have a one-year-old baby that pretty much takes up all of my free time,” Machado said. “I played soccer, and I biked a lot, too, but now that’s all gone. We are, after all, still trying to find our way around Lubbock.”
Machado says his wife is also excited about the move. She has a joint appointment with the new Department of Veterinary Sciences and the animal science department and will start teaching dairy cattle production for Texas Tech in the fall of 2018. Eila is new to teaching, but Machado says she is excited about this new opportunity.
As a new professor and new dad, Machado can’t wait to see where this new move will take him. He was all smiles when he said he and his wife looked forward to teaching at Texas Tech.
“Our family is growing, and a lot has changed in our lives,” Machado said. “We are both very excited to see where it goes.”