NILE’s Merit Heifer program includes Wyoming donors, youth recipients
Billings, Mont. – The Northern International Livestock Exposition (NILE) Merit Heifer program is a project designed to help youth get started in the beef cattle business through awarding heifer calves to project participants, says NILE Merit Heifer Committee member Amanda Moore.
“Think of is as a live animal scholarship,” Moore says. “Any youth that is 13 to 17 years old as of Sept. 15, and a 4-H or FFA member may enter. Project participants are selected on the basis of merit, need, future goals and ability to care for the animal.
“Each participant will own their calf jointly with NILE until the completion of the program, at which time NILE officials will sign off and the participant will take full ownership of the heifer and her offspring,” explains Moore.
For the first year, participants are responsible for raising the heifer, arranging for her to be bred, completing a record keeping procedure and bringing the animal back to show at the NILE one year later as a bred replacement heifer. The program is completed after the heifer is determined bred, all record keeping has been completed and the heifer has been shown at the NILE Stock Show.
Producers donate all heifers, and participants rank which breed of heifer they prefer.
“They give you three choices, and put down Black Angus, Hereford and Red Angus. I looked into other heifers that kids were getting through the program, and saw some really nice Black Angus and Hereford heifers, so I put those as my top two choices,” says 2011 Merit Heifer recipient Morgan Flitner of Greybull. She received a Hereford heifer donated by Beery Land and Livestock of Montana.
Flitner heard about the program from two of her older friends who also received heifers through the program.
“I thought it was an interesting and fun opportunity to show at the Wyoming State Fair and the NILE, so I talked to them and decided to apply,” explains Flitner. “I have two Angus cows that I run with my dad’s, and this is heifer is my first step toward a registered Hereford herd.”
“The best part so far was getting the letter in the mail. It was really exciting,” notes Flitner, who was a couple weeks out from selecting a heifer at press time. “I’ve talked to the people who donated the heifer and they were really happy with the program and liked it. They said they’ve had a great time with the kids they’ve given heifers to already,” she adds.
“I’ve always had an interest in youth, and we’ve always enjoyed the NILE and were founding members of it. We decided it was a good way to go several years ago,” says Padlock Ranch CEO Wayne Fahsholtz of Ranchester, of donating heifers to the Merit Heifer program.
“Once we get a name from the NILE we get in contact with each other and talk about goals and plans and set up a time for them to come and select a heifer,” explains Fahsholtz. “We give them the choice of any heifer they want. We’ve found it easier to choose between 10 and 12 heifers, and we have them penned for the recipient to look at. We see if they like one of them, and if they want to go look at others, they can.”
He continues communication with the recipient through monthly reports on the heifer’s progress, and also provides kids with the opportunity to ask him questions. “Most don’t, which is fine, but it’s something we like to offer,” he notes.
“Hopefully they have an opportunity to have a project heifer the following year, and it’s for those that probably wouldn’t have one otherwise, as I understand it,” says Fahsholtz.
Padlock ranches offer red or black composite heifers, and Fahsholtz notes that most choose a black heifer.
Jessica Pingetzer of Shoshoni and Wyat Griffin of Riverton were also selected as 2011 Merit Heifer recipients. K2 Red Angus of Wheatland, Werner Ranch Shorthorns of Riverton and Paint Rock Angus of Hyattville all donated Wyoming raised heifers to the program this year, in addition to the Padlock Ranch.