Eva Hinrichsen, of Westmoreland in Pottawatomie County, has shown cows at the Kansas Beef Expo for 12 years.

Like many others showing and judging at the expo from Dec. 13-15 at the Kansas State Fair fairgrounds, Hinrichsen, a fourth-generation Angus breeder, raises her own calves for show on her parents' Angus farm. Other contestants, like Hinrichsen, want to remain in the industry, whether on the family farm or working with farm animals, as a researcher or veterinarian.

Hinrichsen, 18, attends Oklahoma State University and is majoring in animal science. Having grown up around cattle, she would like to work with them after graduation. Because she is responsible for certain elements on her family farm, she would like to work in animal genetics or nutrition.

“On our operation, I always do their feed rations,” Hinrichsen said. “I also make the mating decisions.”

In November, Hinrichsen was crowned Miss American Angus by the American Angus Association in Reno, Nev. The competition focused on academics and knowledge of the Angus breed.

Taylor Bacon, 20, of Hiawatha in Brown County, has shown cattle since she was 6. She is majoring in agriculture at Kansas State University and wants to raise and sell cattle after graduation. Bacon and her shorthorned cow, Silk, made it into the Grand Drive on Friday.

Younger contestants show for many reasons. Many live on a farm or have a relative who owns a farm. Dalton Krueger, 12, of Bennington, said he likes doing the chores for his family’s animals more than showing them. But, he said, he is proud of the calves he brought to the expo because they were bred from a cow that won during a previous year.

Sawyer Post, 6, and her sister Isabelle, 8, brought Yoyo to the expo. Sawyer said she feels happy when she shows her 3-month-old shorthorned calf. Isabelle has a special strategy when she goes into the ring with Yoyo — she speaks to her in a calm, soothing voice.

“She’s so nice. I tell her that it’s going to be OK when you get into the ring,” said Isabelle, of Double P Ranch in Hill City in Graham County. “I just kind of pet her on the head. She likes to get petted.”

In addition to showing the animals, there was an animal judging contest during the expo. Kane Austin, who runs the Livestock Judging Program at Hutchinson Community College, worked on the event. More than 500 children ages 6 to 18 participated.

“Livestock judging benefits all types of kids,” Austin said. “They have to make quick decisions and defend them before a judge.”

He said that in addition, the students learn how to think on their feet, as well as learning organizational skills.

“They think they’re looking at a class of four cows,” Austin said. “But there’s so much that benefits them long-term.”

Parker Dicks, 13, of Great Bend, understands that he is learning skills now that he can use in his future. He came to the expo to show his two heifers, Miss Banks and Faith.

“I like the lessons that it teaches me about life as I’m growing up and becoming an adult,” Parker said. “I learn organization and hard work, skills that you need in life if you want to be successful.”