This year, a new program was implemented at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture (NCTA) in Curtis, Neb., where individual students participating in a capstone course received a donated heifer thanks to local cattlemen Fred and Reiss Bruning.
The Heifer Link program is the recent expansion of the 100 Beef Cow Ownership Advantage course where “students, parents, employers, and agencies can come together to create successful business plans and ranch transfer programs,” according to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln’s website.
Fred, Reiss’s father and originator of the new Heifer Link program, got the idea for it when visiting Reiss while he attended the NCTA program.
“I was his connection to the school,” said Reiss. “When my dad visited school, he met students that did not own any livestock of their own.”
Fred and Reiss donated the first heifer to the program and since then, many other donors and mentors across the state have contributed as well.
To receive a heifer for the specialty course, the students must have good grades and have good recommendations from their teachers. The recipients are then responsible for the care of the heifer and by the time they leave the program, they are the proud owners of a bred heifer.
“It gives students a foot in the door,” said Reiss. “We plan to donate [a heifer] every year.”
Since his time in the program, Reiss went on to get a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University and is now back in Bruning working as a herdsman and part owner of his family’s cattle business, Bruning Farms & Cattle, LLC.
He hopes that the new NCTA program continues to encourage students to pursue their goals of owning and raising livestock.
“It introduces you to a network of cattlemen across Nebraska to help get the next generation started,” said Reiss. “It provides a sense of ownership to them … Hopefully wherever they go now they will have an animal of their own.”
Reiss is happy to see a trend of many people in his age group returning to the county to work at their family farms.
“With good beef prices there’s a lot of kids coming back and getting involved with their family farms,” said Reiss. “There are kids coming back and diversifying their grain operation by adding cattle.”
The Bruning local received his passion for registered Angus cattle from his father and grandfather, but it wasn’t until toward the end of high school that he wanted to stay home and run the family operation.
He is following his grandfather’s footsteps in raising cattle. The business is now owned by Fred and Penni Bruning, Reiss’s parents.
“It’s a big opportunity for the next generation to transition in [to farming],” said Reiss. “There are good mentors in the area that can give advice. Everyone is watching out for each other.”