Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic focused on the value of the beef industry |

Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic focused on the value of the beef industry

The youth career fair at the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic holds significant meaning for classic manager Ronette Bush-Heinrich. Along with a panel of agribusiness professionals, Heinrich shared her own story with nearly 50 college students who attended the second annual career fair.

“Don’t be afraid to volunteer for something you are interested in,” she told the students. “You just never know when it could lead up to something more, like a career you love or something you enjoy.”

Heinrich knows first-hand how a volunteer opportunity can turn into a successful career. As a senior in college, she worked at a bank, and was asked if she would be interested in volunteering to help get the NCC off the ground. With her passion for cattle and the ranching way of life, she didn’t hesitate to say yes. That was 27 years ago. The next year, she was asked to become the assistant manager of the NCC, and five years later, the manager. “What started out as an opportunity to volunteer turned into a career that I have enjoyed for many years now,” she said.

The career fair started last year as a way for college students interested in going into an agricultural field to gain knowledge about the job market by speaking with a series of agribusiness professionals. This year’s panel focused on networking, internships, opportunities and the job interview.

Most of the professionals agreed internships can be a stepping stone to a permanent career. Randy Lenz, who is a district manager with Purina, tells students agriculture has a lot of diversity, and if they have a chance to hire young people, they want those with a good work ethic that are willing to learn and have a passion for what they do. Most companies would like to have their interns apply with the company after they have finished college, he said. “The ones we hire that didn’t have an internship with us cost us double their wages the first year of employment.”

If students don’t know what field they want to pursue, Lenz recommended they take an aptitude test to show them what they are good at and where their strengths are. “It will be a long life if you wake up every morning and hate your job,” he said.

Taylor Ruether, an area manager for BioZyme, said most employers don’t expect students fresh out of college to know everything. “If you don’t know how to do something, don’t be afraid to admit that in the interview. They are watching for your response, and a willingness to learn,” she said.

Lastly, the panel encouraged students to network, and not be afraid to talk to people. “This career fair is a good place to start,” said Aliesha Dethlefs, who is a University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate now working in 4-H extension.


The public had a chance to sample some of the best beef around at the Battle of the Breeds competition. During the contest, Nebraska cattle breed associations set up a display and prepared beef samples for the public to enjoy. Some of the associations provide brochures and information about their breed and cooking beef. According to Diane Durin with the Nebraska Simmental Association, it is a great way to communicate with the public about why they should eat beef.

The public was able to sample everything from ribeye to sirloin in roast beef sliders and steak. One of the more unique samples this year was a Spicy Korean Steak and Cucumber Appetizer at the Nebraska Gelbvieh Association display. Madalynn Welsh explained their choice for an appetizer came from an idea to try making something totally different. The winners of the best display and best beef sample were the Nebraska Red Angus Association.

Six teams also competed in the Classic Steak Cook-off competition. The champion team was Score One Smokin’, Chris Nelson of Holdrege; and the reserve team was Hogz Brew, Brad Carry of Gothenberg.


Sounds of clippers, animal blow dryers and spray cans of adhesive signaled a busy week in the beef barn. Brice Hanlon of Strasburg, Colo., clipped a Simmental bull owned by Bryce Hill of (BWH) 3 from Sterling. “We brought four Simmental bulls to the classic this year,” Hill said. “This show just has a great vibe. The people here are super friendly, and help each other out. What I really like about it is how laid back and low stress the show is. It is very down-to-earth.”

In the next row over, Dale Bertsche of Flanagan, Ill., trims the leg hair on a yearling Charolais bull. “We have probably shown here for more than 25 years,” he said. “We keep coming back because this show has a great sale and great management. They treat you well here.”


In the vendor area, teams of FFA students interviewed vendors and others about a beef industry question they received earlier that morning, and will be giving a presentation about the subject later in the afternoon. More than 300 members of FFA chapters throughout the state were expected to attend the classic FFA Day. Students set up displays telling about their chapter and what activities they have. They also attended a presentation by Dennis Burson, who is the Extension meats specialist with UNL, explaining value cuts and the importance of beef in Nebraska.

Creed Johnson, who is a member of the Wilcox-Hildreth FFA chapter, said attending the Classic taught him more about cattle. “We saw multiple breeds of cattle today, and I even learned about a breed, the Piedmontese, that I had never heard of before,” he said. “We also judged the classes of cattle that came through the showring, and gave reasons to our adviser.”

The 27th Annual Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic also featured ranch horse events, a stock dog demonstration, and a draft horse pull, in addition to a youth cattle show and livestock judging contest. It was held at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds in Kearney, Neb. ❖

— Clark is a freelance livestock journalist from western Nebraska. She can be reached by email at


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