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Nile Merit Heifer program brings kids from all over the country to Billings

Posted at 6:01 AM, Oct 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-21 12:33:26-04

BILLINGS — At the MetraPark Expo Center, recipients of the Nile Merit Heifer program have travelled from all over the country to show off their stuff. One Washington native is hopeful her heifer will help her win some shows in her class.

Fifteen-year-old Alyssa Williams is no stranger to the livestock industry.

“My family’s always raised cattle. I’m a fifth-generation cattle rancher so it’s just something I’ve always done,” said Williams on Wednesday.

So it was a no-brainer for the Washington native to participate in the Nile Merit Heifer program with the Nile Rodeo.

“It’s a lot bigger of a show than we have in eastern Washington so that was one of the main things I wanted to do the Nile heifer program for, to kind of expand where I show,” said Williams.


The program donates heifer calves to youth between the ages of 12 and 16 to help them get a start in the beef cattle business.

“It’s really going to get me a head start in my future because I plan to have a cattle herd, and doing this now really gets me involved in what I need to know and how to be successful,” Williams said.

Kids like Williams get to experience the responsibility of owning their own heifer, from upkeep and maintenance to record keeping. She’s worked with her heifer, Leslie, for the past year.

“She’s been kind of an interesting experience. She shows really well but sometimes working her can be kind of difficult because she doesn’t want to lead or stand still or things but she’s pretty cool,” said Williams.

She’s worked her heifer by herself but could have a mentor next year. The Nile Rodeo has partnered with the Billings-based organization, Veterans Navigation Network.


“They want to link a veteran up with a kid with the Merit Heifer Program,” said Michael Fuss, an employee for the organization.

Fuss is a vet himself and will be mentoring a heifer recipient in this completely new program this year.

“I believe this a great opportunity for, again, especially for veterans and kids, and to share all the good points instead of all the bad points,” Fuss said.

As for Williams and her heifer, she’s hoping they leave the competition with more than they came with.

“I hope that she definitely wins her breed since there’s probably only a couple Charolais in that class and I hope to be grand and reserve for showmanship,” said Williams.