Park Scholars Student Profile: Reagan Bustabad

By Rachel Cherry | CALS News

NC State University Park Scholar Reagan Bustabad ’24 had the opportunity to research livestock and forestry on a farm this past summer. Bustabad talks with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences about the work she did and shares some advice with future students who are thinking about studying Animal Science at NC State.

Reagan Bustabad

What did you research?

I helped a graduate student as a research assistant in Butner, North Carolina. The crew at Butner focuses their research around extension. When a farmer or agriculturist brings up an issue with their fieldwork, research stations such as Butner do the research in order to answer their questions. An example is a study regarding toxic/novel fescue types in regards to cattle health. In this research, we worked with 48 cattle and tracked the growth and recovery of the field. We also tracked the internal temperature of the vagina of the heifer. We moved cattle into different pastures and the only way to track feeding patterns was by measuring pre- and post-forage samples in the pastures as they were moved to and from that pasture. The internal vaginal temperature helped us regulate how the fescue was affecting the animal. Toxic fescue can lead to fescue toxicosis which can cause the animal to become overheated and have trouble regulating body temperature. This was a way of tracking this pattern. We also extracted plasma to use for hormone sampling. I can’t say exactly what the hormone sampling will be used for, but the graduate student will be looking at hormones such as progesterone to see how or if the different forms of grazing fescue affect different processes in the functioning of the animal. Progesterone is a reproductive hormone and since these animals were pregnant, they can use this to see how it affects pregnancy.

We also worked in forestry. To track the growth and recovery of the field, we did height readings of grass and sent grass off for diagnostics and alkaline readings. We were basically comparing toxic to different forms of novel fescue as this was the main focus of the project. 

The Butner Beef Cattle Unit is all about nutrition, so the main focus of the project is animal nutrition and finding more efficient, healthy, and safe alternatives for farmers and their cattle.

How did you become interested in CALS?

I was always a huge NC State fan. I also had an agricultural background. I grew up on a produce farm run by my family in Clinton, North Carolina. My mother also graduated from CALS in 1993 with a Food Science degree so it is in my blood!

What are your plans or goals after graduating?

I’m a junior double majoring in animal science and agricultural business management. I want to go to graduate school to do more research, particularly on cattle. I also am interested in nutrition and want to stay and give back to a rural community.

What advice would you give students interested in Animal Science/CALS?

Go and try it! Also, don’t be scared of trying out livestock! Many students are used to small animals. Step out of your comfort zone to work with larger animals, livestock is one of the biggest industries in the U.S. so this work is super important.

Who has been one of your favorite teachers at CALS and why?

I have three teachers I need to give a shout-out to with the first being Dr. Flowers. I had his class in fall 2020. He is also my faculty mentor. His class was really hard but it helped me come to the conclusion that this is really what I want to pursue. He’s really an awesome person. I also admire Dr. Fellner. He was an animal science professor and his class was really interesting. I also really appreciate Mrs. Knoll, who is the department head of animal science. She was at my Park Semifinal Interview. She’s definitely a person I like to stay in touch with.

What is the most valuable skill you’ve learned thus far?

To take what I’m learning in my classes and apply it to what I learn outside of class. I remember learning from Dr. Flowers about the estrous cycle of a cow. I went home and told my dad about what I learned that was the same as what I was learning when I was home working with the animals.

What’s your advice to students on balancing school and work life?

I’m quoting something Dr. Trivetti told my class, “Make a list of things you’re doing and if you have too many, start crossing off. Prioritize so you can give 110%. That’s better than giving 50% to everything.”

Are you interested in studying animal science? Explore NC State’s Animal Science Program here:

This article was originally published by CALS News.