The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

NILE Merit Heifer Program


May 29, 2019

The Northern International Livestock Exposition (NILE) originated as an idea from the livestock committee of the Billings Chamber of Commerce in 1966. In 1967 the Public Auction Yards hosted an event to showcase the region’s vast livestock industry. By the fall of 1968, a full-fledged livestock show with 250 exhibitors and 600 entries was underway. The first NILE consisted of livestock shows, horse shows, and rodeo. Today, those traditions continue as the NILE Stock Show and ProRodeo has become one of the largest agricultural events of the Northwest.

Although the NILE Stock Show and Rodeo occurs only once a year in October, they sponsor programs and promotional events throughout the year.

Dedicated to the promotion of livestock production, agricultural education, and respect for the western tradition, the NILE focuses on encouraging youth participation in programs like the Merit Heifer Program.

The purpose of the NILE Merit Heifer Program is to help youth get a start in the beef cattle business by awarding heifer calves to project participants chosen on the basis of merit, future goals, and ability to care for the animal. Any youth between the ages of twelve and sixteen years of age as of June 30 and a 4-H or FFA member may enter. To qualify, applicants will also be required to become a NILE member and to pay the junior membership fee. Entries will be made in the form of an application, and those entering are encouraged to think of this as applying for a live animal scholarship with a deadline of June 30. Project participants will be selected by October and then recognized at the NILE Stock Show in October.

According to NILE officials, each program participant will own the awarded heifer 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. During the program’s duration, participants are responsible for raising the heifer, arranging for her to be bred, keeping all records according to provided guidelines, and reporting with the animal one year later as a bred replacement heifer for exhibit at the NILE Stock Show.

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. Because the purpose of this program is to help the participant start his or her own cattle herd, participants will not sell their program animals at NILE.

An important component of completed applications for this program will be a personal essay from the applicant explaining why he or she should receive a heifer. In addition, applicants will need a total of six references—three of whom will be listed as references on the application form that the selection committee may call if needed and three recommendation letters from people other than those listed on the application. The applicant should show a commitment to agriculture, reveal future goals for a production operation, and demonstrate the ability to feed and raise the animal in a proper setting.

As another part of the application process, applicants will be required to create a three-five minute YouTube video that must not only be voiced by the applicant but include an introduction of the applicant, a facility tour, a description of current 4-H/FFA projects, and a listing of goals and objectives for the Merit Heifer Project if selected. During any remaining video time, applicants should be creative in showing the committee how/why they are worthy of receiving a heifer.

Although Jaycie Mitchell, a 2012 graduate of Chinook High School (CHS), has been the only NILE heifer recipient during Vo-Ag teacher, Ms. Robin Allen’s career at CHS, Allen promotes the program each year, with the awareness that the application process is a tough one.

Anyone with questions about the Merit Heifer Program is encouraged to contact Program Chairman Dwain Hould or Program Coordinator Shelby Shaw by calling the NILE Office at (406)256-2495 or by emailing Completed applications should be received by 4:00 p.m. on Friday, June 28. Additional information about the program, full application details, and example YouTube videos are available online at

The first NILE was funded much the way it is funded today—through memberships from businesses, ranchers, and other supporters as well as through sponsorships from corporate partners. NILE believes their youth programs are important for the future of agriculture and ask any people who share those same values to join them. According to a NILE spokesperson, “As partners together we can accomplish more than any one individual.”


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2020