AMARILLO — Dr. Sarah Capik has started in her new position as an assistant professor in ruminant animal health with Texas A&M AgriLife Research in Amarillo and the department of veterinary pathobiology at Texas A&M University in College Station.
“We are very excited that Dr. Capik has joined our research faculty here at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Amarillo, right in the heart of the cattle feedlot industry,” said Dr. John Sweeten, AgriLife Research resident director in Amarillo. “She brings a wealth of knowledge and research skills that will contribute to the scientific impact on the region’s cattle industry.
“Dr. Capik’s position represents a joint investment of talent and commitment on the part of Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences,” Sweeten said.
He said her work will be at the nexus of ongoing team research that also includes West Texas A&M University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service and the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory.
The Texas Panhandle with the surrounding cattle feeding industry is the perfect place for Capik to begin her career, she said.
“My passion is working with feedlot cattle and improving their health, welfare and productivity,” she said.
Capik said her family was not involved in agriculture growing up in Florida, but she started riding horses early and that led to her involvement with FFA. The combination led to her pursuing an animal science degree with minors in management and sales in agriculture and agriculture law at the University of Florida.
It was during an undergraduate ruminant nutrition course that she first became interested in cattle and the beef industry, she said.
Then during veterinary school, also at the University of Florida, Capik said she was lucky enough to participate in the Beef-Production Immersive Knowledge Experience, or B-PIKE, program hosted by Iowa State University, which took her to Nebraska where she spent a summer working in several feedlots.
“That is when I really fell in love with beef cattle and the feedlot industry, and where I learned just how important bovine respiratory disease, or BRD, is to the industry,” she said.
“I then geared all my spare time during the rest of vet school to learning as much as I could about cattle and was fortunate to spend additional time doing externships with practitioners who worked with feedlots in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.”
After obtaining her doctor of veterinary medicine degree, her interest in feedlot cattle, BRD, research and epidemiology led her to Kansas State University to get her doctorate. While there, she focused on providing answers about some of the risk factors and bacteria involved in BRD through several applied research projects.
Bovine respiratory disease is a complex disease process in cattle involving host and environmental factors along with multiple bacteria and viruses, Capik explained. It can cause cattle to be sick or in some cases die and has a large impact on the beef cattle industry in terms of both animal welfare and economics.
“I want to continue to explore respiratory disease, as it is one of the most significant diseases the industry faces,” Capik said.
Even though BRD has been researched for a long time, there are still many unanswered questions and room for improved understanding, she said.
“A lot of my research will be aimed at understanding the disease better and investigating current and potential diagnostic methods,” Capik said. “We still struggle, in both research and production settings, with accurately identifying sick cattle early on in the disease process.”
She said the hope is that in working to understand the relationship between the various factors involved in the disease complex and in improving our diagnostic ability, appropriate interventions can be identified that could mitigate BRD risk.
“The ultimate goal is to use my veterinary and epidemiological knowledge to help industry stakeholders navigate current and future animal and public health challenges,” Capik said.