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Animal Science

Counting Sheep

Jessica Marsh grew up in Liberty Hill, Texas, and is now an animal science major at Texas Tech University. Marsh was raised on her family’s farm where she first gained her passion for agriculture through her father’s roping horses. The responsibilities the animals gave Marsh in her early childhood laid the foundation for her future endeavors.

“It wasn’t really a particular moment that caused me to select my major, but a combination of my love for animals and the lessons they taught me growing up,” Marsh said.

Through high school, Marsh showed market lambs and goats competitively across Texas. However, it was not until reaching out to a Texas Tech professor that Marsh found her true passion.

“I reached out to Dr. Jackson to see what research he was working on regarding sheep,” Marsh said. “Getting involved with the research really opened my eyes to just how much I didn’t know about the industry and made me want to learn more.”

Sam Jackson, Ph.D., serves as a mentor to Marsh by helping facilitate her research.

 “Jessica is a very bright, hard-working student,” Jackson said. “She tends to business relative to her duties and goes above and beyond what is asked of her.”

Marsh anticipates continuing her education after receiving her undergraduate degree and aspires to attain a master’s degree in livestock nutrition. Even with big dreams, Marsh stays true to herself and wants to continue to learn as much as possible to be beneficial to the industry she holds close to her heart.            

“My goal has always been to earn high grades or get my dream job,” Marsh said. “At the end of the day, I just hope to be as passionate about what I do and be able to shine a positive light on the agriculture industry.”

From the Southeast, to the South Plains

The base of the Appalachian Mountains in Cleveland, Georgia, is not the place you would expect to find a Texas Tech Red Raider. Bucky Jackson, however, is not a typical young man.

Growing up in the mountains of North Georgia, Jackson was heavily involved in his local FFA chapter. Through his membership, he was encouraged by his advisor, Dustin Keener, to show market goats.

Jackson grew up on his family’s commercial beef cattle operation in the mountains of Georgia.

“Bucky is a great kid,” Keener said. “If you do not know about his passion for agriculture and the livestock industry, it is because you have never listened to him talk.”

As Jackson progressed into his high school years, he became interested in livestock judging. His interests soon grew into a passion and led Jackson to seek out higher education that would allow him to increase his knowledge of the livestock industry.

For his first two years of post-high school education, Jackson attended Fort Scott Community College while competing on the school’s extremely successful livestock judging team. To continue fulfilling his aspirations in the livestock field, Jackson decided to transfer to Texas Tech University to complete his undergraduate education.

“My decision was not very hard,” Jackson said. “Ever since I had started this journey, I had one school in mind and that was Texas Tech.”

Jackson has continued competing as a member of the Texas Tech judging program.

“Dr. Rathmann was one of the biggest reasons I came,” Jackson said. “His reputation as a coach and mentor made me want to be a part of this team and represent this school.”

Jackson plans to complete his undergraduate degree in the field of animal science at Texas Tech and utilize his education to attain a profession in the sales of agricultural pharmaceuticals. Jackson’s passion for the livestock industry is a true testament to the dedication and work ethic possessed by the Red Raider family.

 “This industry is what I have grown up loving,” Jackson said, “and I hope I can pass on my passion for agriculture to my kids one day.”

“Ever since I had started this journey, I had one school in mind and that was Texas Tech.”

Bucky Jackson
Bucky Jackson is and animal science major who hopes to find a career selling agricultural pharmeceudicals.

The New Ranch Horse Team Coach has Big Plans for the Future

Justin Stanton Ranch Horse Head Coach
Justin Stanton looks to the future as the new ranch horse team head coach.

The Texas Tech Ranch Horse Team has a reputation of winning multiple national and reserve national championship titles, but the new head coach wants more for his students than winning in the show pen.

“I want my students to be the most sought after students in the industry.”

Justin Stanton

Justin Stanton, a native of Slaton, Texas, was excited and surprised when the previous head coach approached him about becoming the new head coach for the Ranch Horse Team.

Ranch Horse Team Coach Justin Stanton
The new ranch horse team coach, Justin Stanton, has big goals set for his students.

“I was really surprised,” Stanton said. “It just kind of came out of nowhere for me. Chance was the first one to talk to me about it and after it, all kind of sank in. I was, of course, super excited. I have such a passion for this team because it did so much for me and my family. I know what it can do for so many other students and just something about that just gets me fired up. This team holds a special place in my heart, and I want it to be successful.”

Being a qualified candidate for the position of head coach, Stanton runs his own horse training operation, Stanton Performance Horses, and was the prior assistant coach and a member of the Texas Tech Ranch Horse Team.

“We had two national championships that I was part of on the team,” Stanton said.  “I won a reserve national championship and then my last year I was high point individual, won the nonpro division and that’s pretty much my show career for the team. At the time I was also training outside horses and I had about 10 horses in training that I showed on my own as well.”

Stanton knows the pride that comes from wearing the double T logo and has high expectations out of current and potential future team members. 

“With the reputation that the ranch horse team has there is a level of pride that you have while on this team,” Stanton said. “There are so many things that we do that requires a great attitude, a great work ethic, and a love for this team. A desire to make it better for the future kids to come on this team is huge that I look for in prospective team members.”

Stanton is looking to the future for the next big thing to help grow the program. He said he wants to focus not only on winning in the show pen but also helping his students prepare for life after college and being successful in the industry.

“We’ve gotten pretty good at winning,” Stanton said. “One thing that I really want to focus on is preparing these students for the industry. I want the ranch horse team to be the most elite program that all of the top professionals in the industry call and ask, ‘Who’s graduating this year?’ That’s more important than winning to me. Winning is, of course, important, but I want my students to be the most sought after students in the industry because they have that much more experience.”

Stanton said he does not want a lack of experience to keep his students from not getting a job after they graduate but instead wants them to gain as much experience that they can while being on the team.

“To me, especially in the horse world, and really any industry, the experience you get out of school is important,” Stanton said. “But what does every facility, or place that you’re trying to apply to say? ‘You need more experience.’ I don’t want that to be a problem with my students. I want my students to have more experience than any other student coming out of similar programs.”

CASNR Names Hales as the New Thornton Distinguished Chair in Animal Science

Thornton Distinguished Chair Dr. Kristin Hales
CASNR announced Dr. Kristin Hales as Thornton Distinguished Chair in Animal Science.

A Panhandle native and a leading export in her field of nutrition and beef cattle has brought her expertise to Texas Tech University as the new Thornton Distinguished Chair.

“I came back to academia because I really enjoy mentoring graduate students and helping them learn how to conduct research.” 

Dr. Hales said
Hales named Thornton Distinguished Chair
Dr. Kristin Hales named as the new CASNR Thornton Distinguished Chair in Animal Science.

Dr. Kristin Hales grew up in the Texas panhandle where she raised and showed cattle and sheep. She also did horse judging through her college career but said she always knew her passion was for beef cattle.

“I participated in the Texas Cattle Feeders Association Fed Beef Challenge where you had to feed a pin of cattle,” Hales said. “Then when I was in high school, I worked in the summertime, and after school at our local feedlot. That really piqued my interest in feedlot nutrition, especially in all feedlot cattle aspects and that’s really where I became interested.”

Hales completed her undergraduate and master’s degree in animal science at Oklahoma State University and then came back to Texas to complete her Ph.D. in animal science at Texas Tech. After Hales completed her schooling, she began working for the USDA Agricultural Research Service for the next decade.

“I knew that I wanted a heavy research job,” Hales said. “My degrees were very research driven and in doing the research in graduate school, I realized that I really enjoyed conducting research and analyzing data, interpreting the results, and then writing the results.”

While Hales worked for the government for the past decade there were not many opportunities to work with students or teach, she mainly just conducted her research and analyzed her data.

“I came back to academia because I really enjoy mentoring graduate students and helping them learn how to conduct research,” Hales said. “Helping students find their way and hoping that I can make research enjoyable for them so that they will want to one day do research as well. I always wanted to teach a little bit but going into ag research within the USDA I didn’t have that opportunity.”  

Through the years of research she did while working with the USDA, she said she was very excited to get to be teaching classes that related back to this research.

“I’ve been doing heavy research for the past 10 years,” Hales said. “Which makes it really fun to use what I’ve learned in my research, and then incorporate that into my classroom teachings. I really enjoy being on the university campus and I enjoy being around young people that are enthusiastic about agriculture.”

The animal and food science department staff were very excited to have Hales joining the department. Animal and food science chair and professor, Dr. Michael Orth, spoke very highly of Hales and looked forward to what she will bring to Texas Tech.

“Dr. Hales is a great addition to our faculty,” Orth said. “She became a nationally recognized researcher during her time at the USDA. She has a great work ethic and focus that is also being seen in the classroom. She will continue the tradition of outstanding scholars in the Thornton Chair position following in the footsteps of Drs. Preston and Galyean.”

Hales said she is excited to be back at Texas Tech teaching the next generation of research conductors and answering some of her research questions during her time at Texas Tech.

“When you look at it, time goes by so fast,” Hales said. “I’ve already been out of graduate school for 10 years. You really have to prioritize what questions do you want to answer before you retire because those answers take a long time to get when you’re doing research and so you have to prioritize. Like what things do I want to know before I retire, and I didn’t realize that right out of school.”

Moving Up, Expanding Out

The Department of Animal and Food Sciences at Texas Tech University is considered one of the nation’s premier animal and food sciences departments in the nation. Equipped with state-of-the-art teaching and research facilities as well as widely recognized faculty and staff. AFS has recently felt unparalleled growth in student enrollment.

Since 2013, the Department of Animal and Food Sciences has experienced an unprecedented 45 percent growth in undergraduate student enrollment, dwarfing the total enrollment growth of the university, which usually only sees a 3 percent average increase in undergraduate enrollment each semester. The student increase in AFS over the past five years is one of the largest growth margins by a department on campus.

The department’s faculty and staff have seen first-hand the continuing enrollment progression. Michael Orth, Ph.D., is chair of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at Texas Tech.

“We’ve gone somewhere in the 400-500 student range to 684,” Orth said. “In particular, if you look at the last four years, our new enrollment was about 150 students four years ago. Three years ago, it was 170 students. Last year, it was 200 students. Now, in this current year, it is over 280.”

Reasons for Growth

The Department of Animal and Food Sciences at Texas Tech was ranked among the top 20 in the country, according to GraduatePrograms.com. The department is equipped with four multimedia classrooms, five specialized teaching and research labs, the largest retail meat cooler on a university campus, and a retail store. Additionally AFS is staffed with faculty members at the forefront of research in topics, including food safety, muscle biology, nutrition, and breeding and genetics.

According to Orth, there are three major reasons why the department has experienced such large enrollment increases: the annual youth camps and activities hosted by the department, the emergent companion animal program, and the implementation of a veterinary school associated with Texas Tech.

“We have livestock, horse and meat judging youth camps, so we have a lot of youth on campus,” Orth said. “In April, we have a lot of local contests here for 4-H and FFA. A lot of kids get exposed to the department. We feel like when people come to Texas Tech, that’s one of the best recruiting tools. If kids come here and they have a good time, they’re more likely to come back.”

The new companion animal program within the department serves as a non-traditional route for pre-veterinary science students who may come from suburban or urban backgrounds, as well as students who may not have an interest in a livestock-centric animal science degree. Orth said the program has given an opportunity to a set of students that comes to the department looking to do something a little different with diversified learning and research opportunities.

Students gather in the atrium to socialize, complete classwork or eat from Cowamongus, the restaurant housed in the animal science building.

Another opportunity students may seek through the Department of Animal and Food Sciences is admission to the forthcoming veterinary school in Amarillo. In 2017, the Texas Legislature passed a budget allocating $4.1 million to the creation of a Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine.

“I really think that just the idea that we might have a vet school has increased the popularity of our program,” Orth said. “And really for getting into vet school, the best major is animal science because of the animal background and teaching that you get.”

Although the overall growth of the department is recognized as a testament to its success, building and program limitations are being brought to the forefront of concern.

“It’s been great to see the growth in the department, but right now we are basically busting at the seams,” Orth said. “We need more facilities. We need more space. That’s becoming a critical issue because if we keep growing at say a 15-20 percent clip, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Right now we are basically busting at the seams.

With the increased student enrollment, faculty and staff are faced with an ongoing lack of available classroom space, office space and teaching laboratories. The overall scarcity of room is becoming a challenge in maintaining the hands-on nature of the program and its production courses.

Nick Hardcastle is a doctoral student in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences. He graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in animal science from Texas Tech and has seen the department grow over the years.

“It’s just crazy to see how much growth animal science has had,” Hardcastle said. “The classes I started off in at Tech only had like 20 people in them, and now that I’m teaching them it’s just these massive classes with like 50 to 60 kids.”

When it comes to maintaining small class sizes to promote student engagement and interaction, faculty and staff, including Orth, have to ask difficult questions.

“As many classes as we can have a laboratory or a hands-on component, and that just gets more and more difficult when you get really big,” Orth said. “Where do you do it? We only have one teaching lab. In the fall we have to ask, ‘Do we meet on Saturdays? Do we meet in the evening?’”

With the increase in undergraduate enrollment, the department is developing new extra-curricular opportunities to engage a wider range of students. Recently, the academic quadrathlon team was restarted and went on to win the southern section competition in 2017. Other opportunities for students include a wider range of study abroad programs, the potential for an animal welfare team, and wool, horse, livestock and meat judging teams.

Hardcastle was a member of the 2013 Texas Tech meat judging team and a coach on the 2016 Reserve National Champion meat judging team.

“I think now that there are so many more students in the department, we’re also seeing a lot more interest in our judging programs,” Hardcastle said. “Our teams now have like 20 kids compared to the eight or nine that other teams have. A lot of those kids end up staying and getting a master’s, too, so the graduate program is seeing growth from that, too.”

As the program and the agriculture industry continue to grow and new opportunities become available to students, the Department of Animal and Food Sciences expects to see continued growth in undergraduate student enrollment, Orth said.

“You know, you’re always going to need food no matter what, and it’s always an important thing,” Orth said. “The animal and food science areas are global industries. You’re interacting. You’re importing, you’re exporting, you’re working with several different countries. It’s expanding.”

Horse statue outside of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences overlooks the doorway students enter for class.

Transforming Traditional

Students will spend time working in both the Lubbock Animal Shelter and the Haven Animal Shelter to develop an understanding of both public and private sectors of the animal shelter industry.

On a cold winter day in 2014, three Texas Tech animal science faculty members scribbled notes on a napkin in a Lubbock coffee shop. Their goal was to move the department beyond its traditional agriculture focus, by giving it a new and unique dimension.

The Department of Animal and Food Sciences is located amidst vast stretches of farm and ranchland, influenced by the agricultural resources of the West Texas, and dedicated to livestock. The department, true to its agricultural roots, is ideal for students looking for a traditional livestock-focused program.

However, the department is also home to a group of students who do not fit the traditional livestock mold. Because the department’s animal science program lays claim to being the most popular pre-vet option, it has accumulated many students from urban backgrounds who are interested in studying companion animals, which include dogs, cats and horses.

During the fall of 2013, Dr. Michael Orth, chair and professor of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, recognized this growing group of non-traditional animal science students, passionate about animals that do not fall into the livestock category.

“Obviously we have this very rich tradition with judging teams…and an incredible number of national champions,” Orth said. “We have outstanding programs in those areas. But, I picked up that if you aren’t in one of those areas you kind of feel like, ‘Well, what do I do?’”

In two short years and with the help of two other animal science faculty members, Drs. Guy Loneragan and John McGlone, Orth set out to integrate a new, unique area of study into the department that would meet the needs of these students and set Texas Tech above the rest.

A New Concentration

Due to the efforts of the three dedicated faculty, Texas Tech’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences now has a companion animal science concentration within the animal science major. It is one of the world’s first universities to integrate this concentration within an animal science department and is one of the few universities to focus on human- animal interaction.

In the shelter management course, students will use local animal shelter facilities to gain experience with routine medical procedures.

Orth said the addition of the companion animal concentration gives the department a fourth area of research, opportunities for new grant funding, and the ability to cater to students who do not want to go the traditional animal science route.

“It gives these students some opportunities to do experiential learning that they would not have had, and so I think that’s big,” Orth said.

According to Orth, in this concentration the term “companion animal” refers primarily to dogs with some attention to horses and cats. Through hands-on research, students will explore canine well-being, behavior, olfaction, nutrition, training and management, as well as equine and canine human-animal interaction.

Orth said the concentration is broken into two course tracks. Students may choose to follow the general companion animal science option or the pre-vet option with a companion animal emphasis.

The general option is designed for students who want to work with companion animals, but are not interested in vet school. The course track is heavily focused on identifying alternative career opportunities through practicums. The pre-vet option remains true to the traditional pre-vet course track, but allows students to substitute some livestock courses for companion animal courses.

With the knowledge and experience gained through this concentration, students are well prepared for both industry and non-profit jobs in areas such as military dog training, nutrition and shelter management.

Nathan Hall, Ph.D., assistant professor of companion animal science, said many students want to become veterinarians because they know they have an interest in working with companion animals, but with time and exposure to alternative routes, many discover a career better fit for their passion. All courses have been created with the intent to open doors that may not have previously existed for students.

Hall said exposing students to a variety of career options within the companion animal industry is a goal of the program.

“We will hopefully try and spark that intellectual passion that will match with their passion for working with dogs and cats, or horses, or any other companion animal,” Hall said, “so that they can sort of marry those two aspects into a career and not just some sort of job here and there.”

However, students who do choose to pursue a career as a veterinarian will leave the program exceptionally prepared and equipped with a very unique knowledge base.

Sasha Protopopova, Ph.D., assistant professor of companion animal science, said the companion animal concentration exposes undergraduate students to ideas and insights only veterinarians will be exposed to through experience.

“Students will be very well prepared for veterinary school as well as other fields and industries within companion animal science. Students will learn to be critical and forward thinkers, with a community-based mindset.”

Additionally, students are offered the opportunity to study how horses serve as companions through equine mental assisted therapy. Katy Schroeder, Ph.D., assistant professor of companion animal science, said the animal assisted therapy industry is growing exponentially and horses are playing an important role in human health and wellness.

“Horses have a special place in the program,” Schroeder said. “I think horses do get lumped into [the program] as companion animals, but they serve a special role in terms of their connection with human beings.

Schroeder said she will add a mental health component to the equine therapeutic programs already being provided by Texas Tech.

None of them have an animal science degree, but they’ve got an appreciation for animals.Michael Orth

A Thriving Industry

As the largest single segment of American agriculture, it comes at no surprise the cattle industry has over an $88 billion economic impact nationally, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. However, the pet industry also has a hefty impact on America’s economy.

Companion animals have created a multibillion-dollar industry consisting of the products and services created to keep pets alive, healthy and happy. According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent approximately $62 billion caring for their pets in 2016. With well over half of the country’s homes owning a pet, the industry is booming and full of opportunity for entrepreneurship and employment.

While the difference between cats and cattle may be drastic, the integration of a companion animal focus into a traditional animal science department has been subtle.

In the shelter management course, a service learning course, students are required to spend two hours per week throughout the semester assisting with various duties at an animal shelter.

When considering the impact of the new concentration, Orth reflected on the department’s motto, “discovering solutions, empowering students, and serving society.”

“It’s the empowering student aspect,” Orth said. “It’s letting them do things and be involved in projects and classes that five years ago they wouldn’t have been able to do if they came here.”

Orth said the addition of a unique area of study took nothing away from the department’s traditional roots, but simply added another piece to the pie.

“We have brought in three faculty members,” Orth said. “None of them have an animal science degree, but they’ve got an appreciation for animals. These individuals bring in some different thinking about animals and how you can interact with students, and different perspectives on things that, quite frankly, the rest of us wouldn’t have. I like that diversity of thought in the department. I think it’s good.”

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Companions In The Community

Prior to teaching at Texas Tech, Protopopova (right) studied at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Florida, where she acquired degrees in neuroscience, pre-vet science, behavior analysis and a Ph.D. in behavior analysis.

The Texas Tech University Department of Animal and Food Sciences is using its new animal shelter management course to create a invaluable connection between its students and the Lubbock community.

The animal shelter management course is a service learning component of the new companion animal science option with the animal science major. The course provides students with an in-depth understanding of the animal shelter industry and hands-on experience working in Lubbock’s shelters.

Michael Orth, Ph.D., chair and professor of the Department of Animal and Food Science, said the idea of the course is what the title of the course suggests.

“The importance of the course is getting out and working with the community,” Orth said. “It is getting students experiential learning opportunities with the animals and a better appreciation of what actually takes place in shelters.”

Each week, classes consist of a lecture and related activity, such as a demo, field trip, vaccination practice, temperament testing, or observing medical procedures. Students are also required to complete individual service assignments at the local shelters.

In the course narrative, Sasha Protopopova, Ph.D., stated the importance of her students learning inside and outside of the classroom due to the community engagement and service involved in animal sheltering.

“Aside from learning husbandry, medical, and management procedures to care for companion animals,” Protopopova stated in the narrative, “students entering the world of animal shelters also need to have a strong understanding of government policies, ethics, community relations, and cultivate a desire for public service.”

The course is partnered with the Lubbock Animal Shelter and the Haven Animal Care Shelter. Protopopova said she feels a great deal of gratitude for the course’s community partners and the integral role they play in the students’ learning experience.

“Without them, the course would not have been developed in such a meaningful way,” Protopopova said. “Animal shelters are a progressive community, and with their transparency, welcome environment, and progressive thinking we can really make something like this happen. That’s not something you could say in a lot of other communities, so we are very privileged to be in such a good community.”

The Canyons Called Them Home

The sun begins to peek over the caprock of the Tule Ranch in Briscoe County, Texas. Cooper Cogdell walks out his front door, coffee mug in hand, ready to face the full day ahead of him. A warm golden glow begins to fill the deep canyons where Cooper heads to gather cattle, living out his dream.

Since Cooper was a little boy, he knew he wanted to be a cowboy like his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather before him. But, he also dreamed of being a Red Raider. While at Texas Tech, Cooper studied agricultural economics and was a member of the Texas Tech Ranch Horse Team. During his undergraduate education, he spent three years on the winning collegiate ranch horse team and coached the team for two years while getting his master’s degree.

“It was probably the most rewarding experience that I’ve ever had,” Cooper said, “The opportunities it presented were something I’ll never give up. The people I met through coaching, and the things I learned while coaching my peers, were beyond beneficial. It was challenging, no doubt. I learned some very good life lessons.”

Holly Cogdell, Cooper’s wife and fellow Tech alum, says her husband definitely used his gifts while coaching the ranch horse team.

“He’s good at teaching people,” Holly said. “He’s good at explaining things, and he’s patient. I feel that being the coach he got to share some of those gifts. He did a good job.”

Cooper worked with many leaders in the stock horse industry including Kim Lindsey and the late Kris Wilson. He credits his experiences with the team to helping him become a better horseman and rancher, which would come to play a larger role down the road.

In January 2013 while Cooper was coaching and finishing out his last year as a graduate student, he and Holly got married. After graduation, the couple stayed in Lubbock and Cooper accepted a job with Plains Capital Bank as a credit analyst.

“I never thought I’d be in an office, wearing a suit every day,” Cooper said. “But, I worked with a lot of great people and learned a lot from that side of the desk.”

Although they cherished their friends and jobs in Lubbock, Cooper and Holly ached to be on the Cogdell family’s historic Tule Ranch where Cooper grew up.

“I really wanted to be a part of that,” Holly said, “a part of raising my future children on the ranch, in the home, but also on the ranch with Cooper. I wanted us all to be together,” said Holly with a grin. “After we got married, all I wanted to do was be a ranch wife. I was just so excited about that. I think I had a very picturesque idea of what being a ranch wife meant.”

Doors opened and closed, not allowing an opportunity for the young couple to move back to the ranch until the spring of 2015.

“We just didn’t have a peace about coming back here yet until April of 2015,” Holly said. “I remember the specific weekend we came home and were helping brand calves. Cooper and I both had the same feeling of ‘It’s time to come home. We’re ready.’ That next week I found out I was pregnant. It was meant to be.”

Cooper is the fourth generation of the Cogdell family to return and continue the family’s ranching legacy.

“I feel like in the population as a whole, we’re definitely seen as a minority,” Cooper said. “There are not many young people wanting to come back and do this anymore, just because it is so hard – the financial burden of it and the resources available.”

Cooper understands why young adults have a hard time returning to the family operation.

I feel like in the population as a whole, we’re definitely seen as a minority.
Cooper Cogdell

“With the estate taxes and other expenses, it’s just so hard to keep ranching anymore,” he said. “A lot of people work all their lives to get to this point. They want to retire and buy a ranch and raise cattle. For me to have the opportunity to come back home after college and ranch as a living, I feel very blessed.”

Cooper saddles as the sun peeks over the horizon.

Cooper and Holly run their own commercial cattle and also have a partnership with Cooper’s brother, Blaze and his wife Lottie, while assisting their father, Dick.

“We’ve been talking a lot about simplifying things,” Cooper said. “Buying more land is expensive. It’s not always easy to make it work. This is why we’ve thought and prayed about it so much, about partnering and trying to be more effective in the way we run a business and the way we ranch.”

Not only have the Cogdell’s been a successful cattle ranching family  for over 100 years, but they also raise their own ranch horses and have produced many great cutting horses for the show pen.

Cooper said one challenge that comes with a family ranching operation is the lack of separation between work and home, making it easy to drag work problems into family problems.

“But we’ve been blessed,” he said. “Our family gets along really well. When we’re working cattle, it is usually just family. Nowadays, we’ve got so many cousins and aunts and uncles. Everybody just jumps in and helps out.”

The original Tule Ranch, founded in 1954, is currently supporting seven Cogdell families. Many evenings you can find a handful of grandkids gathered at their Nana Bette’s home, discussing cutting horses and old family stories, or at one of the aunts’ and uncles’ houses for supper and a highly competitive pick-up basketball game on the caliche drive way. The care and mutual respect that runs through the family is beyond evident, as well as their love for the ranch and the land they call home.

“Being amongst the Lord’s creation, the land becomes a part of you,” Cooper said.

“Especially these canyons. They’ve always been special to our family. They’re so tough on cattle, vehicles, people, and horses, but there’s something majestic about them – just the ruggedness of them. It’s an art form that God created and we get to live in them.”

The canyons that run through the Tule Ranch are considered part of the eminent Palo Duro Canyon.

“The stuff that you experience out here are things you can’t experience anywhere else. Dealing with animals, the joy and pain of life, learning responsibility, and work ethic, you just don’t see that much anymore,” Cooper said.

Stirring a pot of soup on the stove, Holly paused looking down at her 10-month-old daughter, McCrae, playing on the floor.

“I think agriculture, in general, really requires you to trust in a higher power and trust in something bigger than yourself, because you don’t have control of the animals, or the rain, or the grass growing, or any of that,” she said. “All you can do is your very best to be a good steward. It makes you realize that there’s something bigger going on and to trust that God is in control of it.”

I think agriculture, in general, really requires you to trust in a higher power.
Holly Cogdell

The young couple agrees ranching is not where their hope is found, but where their joy is found. No matter how challenging it may get, ranching is what they love to do, and it’s a desire the Lord put in their hearts.

Spurs scraping against the porch steps, Cooper swipes off his hat and shuffles his way inside his simple ranch home. Kissing Holly on the forehead, he scoops up his baby girl and says a silent prayer of thankfulness for the life he feels blessed to live and the dream he gets to live daily.

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CASNR Companion Canines

Dr. Protopopova and students working with a dog at the Lubbock animal shelter.

Dog shelters sometimes get a bad rap. The negative connotation that often accompanies dog shelters makes them seem like a scary place from the outside. However, if you take a closer look, these shelters are no different from the dairy farmer or hog raiser, who is just trying to give their animals the best possible lives they can. That’s exactly what Sasha Protopopova Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Companion Animals Science is here to prove. With the help of Protopopva, the Texas Tech University animal science department has recently added a companion animal science program, which focuses on animal welfare and well-being as well as human-animal interactions.

This new program will study dogs just like the one you might have running around in your backyard, to determine the correlation between behavior traits and adoption rates. Directed by Protopopova, the program focuses on the study of animal behavior in dogs. Their main goal? Get more dogs adopted from shelters.

Protopopova has focused her career on the behavior of dogs. As a dog lover herself, Protopopova is very passionate about this program and is excited to share her canine expertise with the animal science department of Texas Tech. Protopopova utilizes dogs at the at the Lubbock Animal Shelter, the Haven Animal Care Shelter and dogs from the community. With the help of these dogs, she is improving the lives of current and future animals.

The question that I ask at shelters is if we can increase adoption rates through behavior training in dogs.Sasha Protopopova

Protopopova has already seen immense success through her studies. During her dissertation research, she was able to actually increase adoption rates within the shelters she researched. This accomplishment gained the support of an animal welfare program called Mattie’s Fund, which gives research grants to people striving to improve the lives of animals.

This program is helping Protopopova take her already established and proven practices to shelters all across the country. With the help of Mattie’s Fund, her recent experiment will recruit six shelters across the nation “I want to improve adoption rates on a large national scale,” says Protopopova.

Though Protopopova may sound like a hero to shelters, dogs and dog lovers alike, she is no stranger to the backlash from animal rights activist groups. Protopopova describes instances of the aggressive disapproval she has dealt with, especially regarding the lives of animals living in shelters.
“It is typical to get threats from these animal right groups of releasing these animals into the wild, which basically is a death sentence for those animals,” Protopopova says.

Protopopova’s goal is to improve the lives of dogs by getting them adopted from the shelters into homes where the can be cared for. Keeping these animals off the streets and improving their chances of finding a safe and caring home is of utmost importance to her research.

Along with studying behavior of shelter dogs, Protopopova looks into other aspects of improving the lives of these dogs through focusing on disease transmission and predicting which dogs are going to get sick in the shelter.
“The idea here is to prevent illness and treat animals faster,” she says.

Protopopova will be rearing her new departmental program along side Nathan Hall Ph.D. Hall, also earned his doctorate at the University of Florida where he studied behavior analysis on dogs.

“I have always been interested in animals and working with animals,” Hall said. “When I was growing up, I didn’t even know what Ph.D.s were.”

Hall discovered his career path during college, where he started his journey in the study of companion animal behavior with the dream of becoming a vet. He later decided he was more interested in the research side of things.

Contrasting from Protopopva’s work, Hall focused on the training of military dogs, specifically focusing on the study of behavioral techniques and genetic analysis to select optimal dogs to increase rate and selection in which dogs are used for military purposes. Hall studies military dogs that are imported over from Europe. The Lackland Air Force Base Located in San Antionio, Texas, sends teams over to Europe to pick out dogs to begin the training protocol for military purposes.

Hall explained that only 60-65 percent of these dogs actually become military dogs, while the other 40 percent are taken out of the program and adopted out to other training agencies or to become pet dogs.
Hall wants to improve this system to ensure the dogs being purchased and brought over form other locations are still given the best lives possible and reducing the rate of dogs that need to be adopted out.

“We are interested in using behavioral techniques to figure out how to select optimal dogs from the get-go in order to increase the rate of dogs which succeed in the training program,” Hall said.

While the companion animal science program may be brand new to Texas Tech, Protopopva and Hall are no strangers to the subject. Companion Animal Science classes will begin to be offered in the spring and fall semesters of 2017. Protopoova and hall are eager to recruit students to join them in their classes, “Students can get a wide variety of experience with companion animal science,” says Hall.

Grazing a Gold Mine


Born and raised in Burkburnett, Texas, Keith Easter said he is a rancher/farmer or vice versa. While attending Texas Tech University, he worked for a friend who farmed and ran stocker cattle.

“I had always wanted to run cattle on my own wheat,” Easter said. “That’s all I have ever really wanted to do.”

Once ready, Easter was given the chance of a lifetime.

“I was very blessed to get the opportunity to buy the ranch I grew up on,” Easter said. “My wife says it was God’s hands that did it, and I believe it.”

The ranch came with quite a bit of farming, Easter said. However, he was excited to be in control of his own operation and his source of feed and wheat.

My wife says it was God’s hands that did it, and I believe it.
Keith Easter

Hard Work and A Lot of Faith

Wheat is a cash crop in the region. From mid-fall until late spring, Easter said, wheat provides a good source of protein for stocker calves.

Easter said the great thing about wheat is that it enables ranchers to have an opportunity to have cattle on high protein forage, and do well, through the winter months when warm season grasses are dormant.

“Wheat is a dry land crop, but it is also a cool weather crop,” Easter said. “It is well-suited for our area. If we can get the wheat planted and established early along with some timely rain, it’s hard to beat.”

For farmers and ranchers to depend on wheat for a forage supply, wheat must be planted early. Early planting allows the plants to get a good start before cold weather and short days set in.

“TAM 401” and “Razor” are the beardless wheat being used by farmers in the region. This type of wheat matures earlier, and it has proven to be a good fall and spring grazer.

Easter said once cattle ship in the spring, he starts running the chisel on his ground, to break it up.

Easter uses two four-wheel drive tractors, a chisel plow with a disc, and an air seeder.

“Once you get it broken up enough,” he said, “you are then able to fertilize and sweep the ground through the summer to keep summer annuals from growing up and robbing your moisture.”

The objective is to get the ground in better shape to have a good seed bed in the fall.

Any time after the first of September when there is an adequate amount of rain, he will begin to plant his wheat. If no rain is in the forecast by the first of October, Easter will dry sow his wheat.

“It is all dictated by weather,” Easter said.

While there are many variables, time and rain are key for a successful wheat crop.

Firm, wet ground is desirable for sowing wheat. “You want your moisture, but you don’t want to get it so shallow it’ll dry out,” Easter said.

Wheat: A Rancher’s Gold Mine

Owner and operator of the Wichita Livestock Sales Company, Billy Joe Easter, said he uses wheat as a source for economical weight gain through late fall, winter, and early spring.

Keith and Billy Joe are cousins who both grew up with agriculture. Their dads are brothers who were raised on a farm.

“Our dads’ good reputations have helped both of us in starting and growing our businesses,” Billy Joe said.

Through the years, they have stayed in close contact because of their interest in the stocker wheat grazing.

“Wheat pasture is a very suitable cool-season grazer that one should take advantage of for fall weaning calves,” Billy Joe said.

Along with his cattle auction, Billy Joe runs his own cattle/wheat operation.

“I use wheat to grow stocker calves into yearlings ready to go to the feed yard,” Billy Joe said. “Along with that, wheat allows me to grow breeding bulls for resale.”

If the market allows, Billy Joe said, he will put first calf heifers on wheat to give the young females a better opportunity to breed back and raise their first calf with ease.

Since Billy Joe does not harvest, he plants a wheat and oat mix to improve grazing.

“I want a variety of wheat that puts out lots of leaf,” Billy Joe said, “and is late maturing so it will last longer.”

Depending on moisture, Billy Joe said his cattle will graze on wheat from December until May.

Right now, the expense to harvest wheat for grain is far too high for farmers to take that kind of loss.

By grazing your wheat you’re taking away your harvest expense and in its place selling it in pounds of beef.
Billy Easter

Billy Joe said thousands of wheat acres are strictly used to grow grain outside of Texas.

Local wheat prices may see a slight impact (slightly higher prices due to less wheat being harvested), but globally it does not affect the price of wheat.

“By grazing your wheat you’re taking away your harvest expense and in its place selling it in pounds of beef,” he said.

Billy Joe is thankful to be able to grow his cattle on wheat pasture, which allows stocker calves to spend less time in the feed yard.

“Wheat is giving us an opportunity to make money,” Billy Joe said.

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Legacy Behind The Mask

There is something to say about a legacy. Legacies make their mark on you and are not easily forgotten. Texas Tech University gains a new legacy every year- the Masked Rider.

The Masked Rider was established in 1954 at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., when Coach DeWitt Weaver told Joe Kirk Fulton that he wanted a live mascot to lead the football team on to the field. So, on New Year’s Day 1954, Fulton saddled up a friend’s horse and became the official mascot of Texas Tech University. This was the beginning of one of the biggest legacies in Raiderland.

The newspapers from that day reported that the crowds sat in pure awe and total silence as the mysterious rider and horse galloped across the field. When Fulton made his first appearance as the Masked Rider on New Year’s Day, Red Raider fans stood in disbelief of the magnificent entrance. After that game, the Masked Rider was ingrained as a Texas Tech tradition that is still going strong 62 years later.

From 1954 until 1974, this was a male dominant program. Anne Lynch, the first female Masked Rider, changed the face of the program. Each year, a new rider is selected from a vigorous try-out process that eliminates everyone but the most elite students that the university has to offer.

It is an amazing experience that allows you to meet many people.
Charlie Snider, 55th Masked Rider

The Masked Rider program has been a work in progress over the past 62 years and is still continuing to improve with every rider. In 1994, Sam Jackson, Ph.D., took over the program in regards to horse and field safety. At that time, the program was in desperate need of standard safety protocols because of several accidents that had occurred for both horse and rider over the years.

“Back then, they were just a bunch of cowboys” Jackson said.

Jackson began by regulating the parameters they could run in Tech’s Jones AT&T Stadium, and more importantly, when they could run.    Jackson has also improved the selection process of the horse. Each horse selected has to have a particular temperament to be able to handle the large crowds of people and the intense atmosphere of appearances and game days.

“Safety had to become the No. 1 priority for both the rider and the horse,” Jackson said.

As the program has grown, the involvement with the other spirit programs at Tech has also grown. Stephanie Rhode is the program director for all of the Texas Tech Spirit Programs. Rhode’s involvement in the program has produced a full-ride scholarship fund, record breaking appearances, and participation in all school activities.

“This job has been a blessing because I get to work with the most elite group of students that this university has to offer,” Rhode said. “They pretty much become my kids.”

Because of the high expectations the program entails, a rigorous four-month try-out process is required each year. This process ensures only the very best riders are selected. Try-outs for the Masked Rider position begin with a lengthy application process that checks your background, GPA, driving record, school transcripts, and many references.

After the application process, the selected applicants take a horsemanship assessment. Similar to any other occupation, the basics are required. If selected for the position, Fearless Champion becomes 100 percent your responsibility. The rider must know how to feed and water properly, ensure that no harm comes to Fearless day or night, know the signs of illnesses, and keep his living quarters spic’ and span.

While the application and the test may be easy for some, they also must successfully complete a horsemanship pattern and a truck and trailer driving test. The applicant saddles up Fearless Champion and rides the pattern for a panel of judges. To move on to the truck and trailer portion of the process, you must receive a score of 80 percent from half of the judges on your riding. If you advance, the truck and trailer test is pass or fail.

As the Masked Rider, you are required to take Fearless Champion, the truck and trailer, and yourself to many appearances and events. The extensiveness of these tests is mandatory to ensure that the program is functioning at the highest safety levels possible.

If you have made it through all of the obstacles listed, congratulations! You have now reached the interview portion of the process, which means you are almost to the finish line. The interview is conducted by a large panel of individuals who have a lot of involvement in the program as well as the university.

Charlie Snider, the 55th Masked Rider, said trying out for the program was the longest four months that he has experienced in college.

“It is an amazing experience that allows you to meet many people.,” Snider said.

Snider was selected as the 2016-2017 Masked Rider on April 15, 2016. For the past two years, he has served as a member of the field safety team for Fearless Champion and as an assistant to the rider, which has prepared him for his current role.

“When I was given the reins for the first time and was able to put on the black mask and scarlet cape, I was speechless,” Snider said. “Everything I had worked for over the last few years was right there, and for a while, it still didn’t feel real. It wasn’t until my second week of being the rider that it all sunk in.”

Game days are the most iconic event for the Masked Rider. Although they travel thousands of miles across the state to appearances, there is nothing quite like watching them gallop across the field at Jones AT&T Stadium. For fans, this moment is crucial to the success of the game. It brings chills to your skin, brings you out of your chair, and is a tradition that has made its mark on millions of people. For the rider, this tradition is equally as thrilling.

“Stepping on to the field as the rider was the most humbling and eye opening experience of my entire life. Thousands of people attend each game and most of them wait with anticipation for our short run across the field,” Snider said.

For Snider, the games are an adrenaline rush because of the crazed fans, loud music from the Goin’ Band, and the incredible feeling of representing Texas Tech University at the highest capacity.

The Masked Rider Program has had great success over the last 62 years and it will continue to improve with each new year. There is not a higher honor for a Red Raider than to be selected as the Texas Tech University Masked Rider. As the program continues on, improvements will always be made, records will be broken, but the legacy will run on forever.

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