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Rapid City youth wins Merit Heifer show with donated heifer from Wyo couple

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Billings, Mont. – Among a wide variety of shows and events, the NILE’s Merit Heifer Show brought big success for one South Dakota youth. Raina Perli of Rapid City, S.D. was one of 22 youth who received a heifer this year. Perli received a heifer from Dave and Dianna Oedekoven of Oedekoven Angus for the 2016 Merit Heifer Program.

NILE heifer

Perli, an 18-year-old senior at Rapid City Christian and the daughter of Keith and Jacque Perli, has been showing cattle for as long as she can remember.

“I got my first heifer when I was four,” she says. “I didn’t start showing them, but I remember helping since when I was a clover bud in 4-H.”

“It’s been our family tradition that we have cows and come to county fair to show them,” Perli continues. “My desire to do that has really grown as I’ve continued to show cattle.”

Several years ago, Perli received a heifer from the South Dakota Legacy Program, which is similar to the Merit Heifer Program at the NILE.

She was excited about the results of being involved in the program, saying, “I really learned a lot working with other outside genetics and producers.”

Then, two years ago, her mother Jacque visited the NILE, learning about the Merit Heifer Program and sharing the information with her daughter.

“I knew I wanted to get involved in the program, so I started my application in July,” Perli says. “We had to make a five minute YouTube video about our facilities, why we should be selected and the activities that we’re in. Then, we had a second application that was a paper application.”

Along with the written application, applicants were required to submit three letters of recommendation. An essay is also required for the applications.

“I received a letter saying that I had been chosen for the Merit Heifer Program, and the Oedekovens were my donors,” she says.

Learning about the industry

Perli says that she received her heifer in October.

“The Oedekovens were generous and let me pick between 10 and 15 heifers,” she comments. “I wasn’t able to make it to Sheridan to look at the heifers because I was in volleyball. I looked at the heifers and pedigrees, and I visited with my mom.”

Perli adds, “I chose my heifer because of her femininity and her feet, combined with how familiar I was with her pedigree. It matched up well with the genetics that I have in my herd already.”

When the heifer was delivered to her home, Perli says she jumped right in.

“I got my heifer in October, and our first report was due in January,” she comments, noting that program participants were required to submit monthly reports on their participation.

In addition, participants were required call in to a group conference call each month for the first four months of the year.

“We had a monthly conference call where someone who was knowledgeable in the industry talked to us about topics like artificial insemination, breeding, nutrition and other things,” she says. “Our monthly reports had questions based on those calls.”


Perli notes that her partnership with the Oedekovens was really valuable.

“Any questions that I had, they answered,” she says, “and they didn’t make me feel like I was asking stupid questions.”

While students in the program were required to maintain monthly contact with their mentors, Perli says that she often was in contact with the Oedekovens several times a month.

“I had a lot of questions,” she comments. “The Oedekovens were always very encouraging. They answered my questions, and they were very helpful all around.”

Perli adds, “I’d like to give a huge thank you to the donors of this program. By stepping up and giving kids this opportunity, they help make this generation more aware about agriculture and stay committed to the industry.”

Winning the show

“NILE is a really big deal,” Perli says. “People come from across the country. There are a lot of different breeds represented under one building. It’s just an honor to win there.”

Perli adds that her goal was to take the heifer and represent herself and the Oedekovens as well as she could while also representing the Merit Heifer program to the best of her ability.

“I had to go out and show, and that’s all I can do,” she continues.

Perli began at the Angus show, where her heifer didn’t place in her class.

“We were up against some really stiff competition,” Perli comments. “The next day, in the Merit Heifer Show, the judge told me to go stand up by the crowd. I was shocked when I realized that mean I won.”

She continues, “It took a couple of days to sink in. It was unexpected but very exciting.”

Perli recommends that youth should be involved in the Merit Heifer program, if possible.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” she comments. “I learned so much, not only through dealing with and meeting new people but also through showing cattle. It is a valuable program.”

“The Merit Heifer program is about more than just showing,” Perli continues. “It’s about learning about the cattle industry. It’s more in-depth than just showing cattle.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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