RONAN — The Western Montana Stockman’s Association is creating a new generation of ranchers one heifer at a time.
The group awarded 17 heifers on Sunday to local kids involved in 4H and the FFA in hopes that the scholarship program will help promote agriculture and teach kids about the beef industry.
Buddy and Lin Westphal made one of the donations to the program and as ranchers themselves, they were eager to play a role in this initiative.
“It’s a great program for the kids to get invested into agriculture and to have the responsibility of caring for the animal, and it’s also a learning program that has a financial aspect to it," Buddy Westphal said.
The Western Montana Stockman’s Association received a total of 33 applications and those applying had to submit an essay outlining their reasons for pursuing the heifer scholarship.
Following a board met to discuss the applications, 17 were deemed the most deserving of a receiving a free heifer to show in the 4H fair.
On average, heifers sell for well over $1,000, and receiving one for free reminds kids to take the responsibility seriously.
“There’s a lot of commitment with a heifer, they gotta feed her daily, get her to grow, get her to breed and have a calf in the future," Western Montana Stockman’s Association president Paul Guenzler said of raising livestock.
Each of the recipients will be required to work with a cattle expert that acts as a mentor and assists with the many obstacles one faces when raising livestock.
Mentors were chosen by the recipients during the application process. Morgan Shepard was a 2019 recipient of a heifer, but this year she chose to give back, and donated a heifer to the program herself.
“The hardest parts are making sure you check your cows even when it’s midnight, and keeping those calves alive when they’re calving, and making sure you get good bulls, and all the vaccines, and making sure you have enough money to raise them," Shepard explained.
If the kids stick with it, all of that hard work could one day pay off. “In fi ve-to-10 years it might be the start of their herd that might turn into being a large herd down the road, and eventually help them buy land and make them a successful rancher,” Guenzler said.
The Western Montana Stockman’s Association awards about $20,000 livestock to its scholarship recipients. Guenzler is thanking the donors, sponsors, and community members that make their mission possible.