Updated: Jul 7
Growing up on a family cattle farm, Dr. Natasha Kutryk knew early in life that she wanted to pursue a career in agriculture. Accompanying her father on the farm, she found that agriculture was much more than tending to livestock.
“Farmers are farmers, but they're also environmentalist they're stewards of the land. They're paying attention to the weather. They're watching the global markets. Everything's very complex,” Kutryk says.
In agriculture, Kutryk recognized that there were many different avenues into the industry. She was unsure of which one to take, but then saw veterinary medicine as a pathway.
“I think one of the factors that influenced me was that growing up, our family farm had a female large-animal vet—and I really admired her,” says Kutryk. “I recall thinking it was cool how when there was a problem that my father couldn't fix or was in trouble, he would phone this woman and she would show up and get the job done.”
From her passion for agriculture, Kutryk embarked on a career as a veterinarian. First, she attended the University of Alberta, studying at the Faculty of Agricultural, Life, and Environmental Sciences. Then Kutryk was accepted into the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan.
Once she graduated, Kutryk moved abroad to New Zealand working at a veterinarian clinic and then as an on-site veterinarian on a dairy farm that cared for 2200 cows.
“It was overwhelming to be in that position that early in my career, but it was one of the most satisfying [jobs] and I learned the most from that experience,” says Kutryk.
Her career also ended up taking her to the United Kingdom and around Canada. Overall, she says her international work has made her into a stronger veterinarian.
“I think it helps to learn different ways of doing things. Challenging yourself to keep an open perspective and always think outside of the box,” says Kutryk.
Within veterinary medicine, Kutryk took interest in specialized practices— in particular population medicine which is defined as the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group.
Kutryk’s fascination in population medicine lead her to finding Feedlot Health Management Services.
When Kutryk was younger—8 years before joining Feedlot Health Management Services—she had a summer job pen riding for a local feedlot. As a pen rider, Kutryk would monitor cattle health on horseback.
The feedlot Kutryk worked at also happened to be a client of Feedlot Health Management Services and she witnessed first-hand how veterinarians utilized data within population medicine.
“I thought it was fascinating what they do, population medicine. They seem to be experts in their fields. I liked how everything was measured and monitored. This is a company that always uses data-based decision-making. That makes sense to me.” says Kutryk.
Fast forward to today and Kutryk is now one of the professional services veterinarians on the Feedlot Health Management Services consulting team. Through the collection and analysis of data, Kutryk helps clients improve their animals’ health.
Animal handling is another aspect of veterinary medicine that Kutryk loves.
“People can do a fascinating job communicating with animals and handling them in low stress ways. My father was very good at that,” says Kutryk.
Looking back, she recalls times when her father would lecture her about the importance of animal care and not causing them any unnecessary stress.
During calving season, Kutryk’s father taught her to not only monitor the cattle’s physical characteristics, but also their behavior—understanding the cows’ behaviour can signal when they are close to calving or if they need any further intervention. Kutryk has carried this over to her veterinary practice.
“You can improve any part of the job with animal handling. The effects can be great and it's fascinating to me.”
Throughout her veterinarian career, Kutryk has managed to land her dream job, worked internationally and most recently she was elected to the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association Council. But among her numerous accomplishments, Kutryk is especially proud of the individual relationships she cultivates with every one of her clients.
“When I've been successful communicating or implementing a positive change, those have been the most rewarding,” she says.
“Sometimes it's the clients that you've worked the hardest to gain their trust and then one day, they reach out for your opinion—and that’s satisfying, that's the most rewarding.”
Celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science
Since Ag for Life last spoke to Dr. Natasha Kutryk, she has had some new developments in her career. Recently, Kutryk started a new role as a Senior Scientific and Marketing Specialist at Merck Animal Health where she helps producers with different animal products from vaccines to medication. She also investigates any adverse reactions to these products.
Overall, Kutryk aims to improve animal health every step of the way.
“Everything I do, whether that's being involved in research trials with our product or helping producers better utilize our products, it's all about improving animal health. That’s the number one goal,” Kutryk says.
For young women and girls who are interested in agriculture, whether it’s becoming a veterinarian or anything else in ag sciences, Kutryk encourages them to pursue it—more diversity is needed in the industry.
“It's a fast-moving industry with lots of challenges that we need solutions for. Diversity in background and experiences is an asset and should be embraced,” says Kutryk
“Think of your differences as an advantage because we need diverse individuals to find diverse solutions going forward.”