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Montana ag featured at event: The NILE exhibits the region’s greatest livestock, horses and western culture

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

From humble beginnings to prestige and merit, the Northern International Livestock Exposition (NILE) in Billings, Mont. has focused on promoting livestock, agricultural education and the western way of life.  


In 1966, the idea for the NILE came out of the livestock committee of the Billings Chamber of Commerce. The first event, held in 1967 at the Public Auction Yards, gave agricultural producers the opportunity to showcase the livestock industry of the region.  

A full-fledged livestock show with 250 exhibitors and 600 entries was boasted in the fall of 1968, according to the NILE website.  

The original NILE consisted of livestock shows, horse shows and rodeos, and those traditions continue today.  

Livestock shows 

Youth with steers, lambs, hogs and goats may enter the Junior Fed Market Shows to compete for the honor of raising the grand champion market animal. Judges evaluate livestock for structural correctness, market readiness and phenotypic quality. According to the website, over 400 animals were entered in the 2019 NILE youth shows.  

In similar fashion, feeder steers and heifer calves compete in the Club Calf Show, and the best calves are sold in the prospect sale.  

The Merit Heifer Program is a unique opportunity offered to youth ages 12 to 16. Participants earn the chance to share ownership of a heifer with the NILE and are responsible for raising, recordkeeping, arranging for the heifer’s breeding and bringing her back to show at the NILE as a bred replacement heifer. After completing the program, ownership is transferred to the youth to start their own cowherd.  

Horse events 

Along with many livestock shows, the NILE is host to horse shows and futurities. The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Ranching Heritage Challenge (RHC) during the NILE is the only RHC held in Montana.  

The Gold Buckle Select Sale features hand-selected, top-quality horses for a wide range of buyers.  

The Versatility Ranch Horse Show gives the best working ranch horses an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities through ranch riding, ranch trail, ranch reining, ranch cow work and ranch conformation classes. There are open, amateur, cowboy and youth divisions as well as AQHA and all-breed classes.  

New in 2020 was the NILE Colt Classic, a refresher clinic for young horses and an educational opportunity for horse owners. The NILE also hosts the Runnin’ the Rims Barrel Racing and the Equis Raffle Filly Program.  

Other activities 

On top of the livestock and horse events, the NILE is host to the NILE Ranch Rodeo Finals, as well as three performances of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) ProRodeo, including a mid-performance wild pony race.  

The NILE also features trade shows in the exhibit hall and expo center, as well as a market for the last three days of the event.  

The 2021 event is scheduled for Oct. 15-23.  

For more information, visit Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to 

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