Wyo teen takes top prizes in NILE Merit Heifer program contest this year
Encampment – Konnar Knotwell was raised on a commercial cattle operation in Encampment and showing cattle has always been a part of her life, but until this year, the 16-year-old hadn’t delved into the realm of purebred livestock.
“I’ve been involved with cattle my whole life,” Knotwell says. “My parents have cattle and they showed in FFA. My mom also judged in college.”
During the Wyoming State Fair in August 2014, several friends of Knotwell’s told her about the Northern International Livestock Exposition’s (NILE) Merit Heifer Program.
Receiving a heifer
“I had some friends who told me it was a really cool program,” Knotwell explains. “I looked at it and decided I should apply.”
After being accepted into the program, Knotwell received a purebred Angus heifer from Oedekoven Angus in Sheridan.
“I received my heifer in November, brought her home and put her in with my other heifers,” Knotwell says. “After she got settled in, I started halter breaking her.”
She adds that the Merit Heifer program is more than just raising a show animal.
“As part of the program, I had monthly reports to fill out about my heifer,” she explains. “The reports followed the time of year. For example, in January when we started, we answered questions about our heifers. In June, the questions were about breeding, which bull we selected, why we selected that bull and that kind of thing.”
Knotwell notes that she also learned a lot through conference calls with the other members of the program.
“We met with different people and called in on a conference call,” she says. “We learned things from speakers and had the chance to ask questions.”
“I learned a lot about registered cattle,” Knotwell comments. “We run commercial cattle at home, and it was cool to be exposed to the registered side. I learned a lot more about that kind of thing.”
While the educational aspects of the program were intriguing, Knotwell adds that her favorite part of the program was the chance to get to know new people.
“It was really cool to get to know other people, especially those who are willing to donate to youth and be a part of this program,” she says.
After a year spent raising the heifer, Knotwell finished at the top of the program, winning grand champion showman and overall herdsman.
The herdsman award included interview scores, showmanship, monthly reports and participation.
“It was pretty great to be a part of the program,” she comments.
Knotwell adds, “I’ve always wanted to get involved in the cattle business. It’s a good business to be in.”
After starting her herd several years ago through a donated heifer program in Carbon County, Knotwell expanded through the Merit Heifer program, and she hopes to continue in the future.
“I want to continue to raise cattle, and I also want to go to college,” she says. “I want to study either sports medicine or ag science. I’m leaning towards sports medicine, but I want to stay involved in agriculture. I always want to have my cows.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.