Reinaldo Cooke, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Animal Science, is the new Burkhart Endowed Professor for Beef Cattle Research.
The professorship is a part of the Burkhart Estate endowment in the name of Harry Burkhart III from Matagorda County to support cattle research. The Burkhart Professorship was established to support a distinguished faculty member with primary research efforts focusing on integrated beef cow-calf systems in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The accompanying funds are to support the holder’s teaching, research, service and professional development activities.
“Congratulations to Dr. Cooke on this well-deserved honor,” said Andy Herring, Ph.D., Department of Animal Science interim department head. “This endowment expands opportunities for our department’s long-standing commitment to our beef cattle industry.”
Cooke’s professorship is the culmination of extensive collaboration with former animal science department head, G. Cliff Lamb, Ph.D., now director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, which funds agriculture, life science and natural resources research across the College.
“We are excited to see this professorship come to fruition, and we are proud to have a scientist of Dr. Cooke’s caliber and impact serve as our first Burkhart Endowed Professor for Beef Cattle Research,” Lamb said. “His scientific contributions have and will continue to garner national and international recognition in beef cattle research.”
“Being recognized as an endowed professor is an honor for any faculty member,” Cooke said. “It’s a highlight of my career, something I looked for, and a great honor for me as a researcher.”
Cooke said he will use the opportunity to bring together research that integrates all aspects of cow-calf production, from development to reproduction of females, to health and growth efficiency of calves until weaning. Resources will also be used to support graduate student research, promoting the education of future beef industry professionals while advancing Texas A&M University’s excellence in graduate training.
“The cow-calf industry is the foundation of the U.S. beef industry, so having this endowment is a great opportunity to build collaborations, combine our knowledge, and develop new and integrative management systems for cow-calf producers,” Cooke said.
He said he plans to use the Burkhart Professorship for Beef Cattle Research resources to generate and strengthen research results that can be readily translated to commercial cow-calf producers and used as preliminary data for federal/international grant programs.
Building an international reputation
Cooke serves as project director for two active U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, NIFA, projects specific to cow-calf production and also as project director for a USDA-NIFA project focused on graduate training in cow-calf management.
His research findings have resulted in nearly 200 invitations to speak at national and international venues such as Brazil, Canada, France, Russia, Croatia, Italy, Romania, Germany, Argentina, France, Mexico and Portugal.
Already considered a global leader in his field with an international program of major relevance to beef cattle production across the world, Cooke said receiving the Burkhart Professorship for Beef Cattle Research will advance the recognition of his and Texas A&M’s academic contributions nationally and internationally.
His research program aims to enhance efficiency in cow-calf systems based on Bos taurus- and B. indicus-influenced cattle, which represent 86% of beef operations and 84% of the beef cattle population in the U.S.
His program in cow-calf research is uniquely comprehensive in that it integrates nutritional, reproductive, health and behavioral concepts to address all animal categories within the cow-calf cycle. His research also evaluates how interventions during the cow-calf phase impact the offspring in feedlot systems, promoting vertical integration of the beef cycle toward efficient production of high-quality beef.
Since joining Texas A&M University in 2017, Cooke has published an average of 17 journal articles each year while securing an average of $750,000 per year in research grant funds. The majority of these journal articles and secured funds directly resulted from cow-calf research.
Additionally, he serves as coordinator of the 44 Farms International Beef Cattle Academy, a unique advanced beef cattle education immersion program offered by Texas A&M University to develop beef industry leaders for tomorrow around the world.
Recognitions and service
Cooke has served as an elected member of the National Beef Reproduction Leadership Team and co-chaired the Western Beef Resource Committee, which are both multistate groups focused on cow-calf research and educational endeavors.
He serves as Section Editor for the Journal of Animal Science and as president for the American Society of Animal Science, ASAS, Western Section. He received several prestigious awards including the Animal Growth and Development Award in 2021, the ASAS Animal Management Award in 2020, the ASAS Early Career Achievement Award in 2018, the ASAS – Western Section Extension Award in 2017, and the ASAS – Western Section Young Scientist Award in 2016. Cooke also received the Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence – International Involvement this year and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award for International Impact in 2021.