Well, it's that time of year again - the 74th Annual Nueces County Junior Livestock Show will be kicked off with a parade, scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, through Robstown's Main Avenue for approximately 1.5 miles.

The parade will conclude at the fairgrounds in the parking lot surrounding Fairgrounds Field. Other Saturday events will include the NCJLS Alumni Barbecue cook-off, the Queen's Contest and Crabtree Amusement's Carnival Midway.

Other major events during the NCJLS are as follows:

Friday - Welding contest Sunday - Horse show Jan. 14 - Meat goat judging and homemaking awards presentation Jan. 15 - Cattle, rabbit, poultry, lamb and shop project judging Jan. 16 - Swine judging, shop project awards presentation and livestock judging contest.

The Blue-Ribbon Auction Sale and Shop Project Silent Auction will be held Jan. 17 and all are welcome to come out and help support our youth for all of the hard work they dedicated to their projects over this past year.

This year's NCJLS will have a record number of entries, a 4-percent increase over last year, and a more than 18-percent increase in the number of youth, or a total of 1,406, exhibitors participating in the annual event. This event can only be accomplished by the many local volunteers that give their time, talents and treasure to support our local youth, and for that we are all very grateful.

For more details check out the NCJLS web site at http://www.ncjls.com/.

Feral Hogs now statewide pest

More than 2 million feral hogs now roam Texas and managing them will take more than just a few hunters, and according to Ken Cearley, AgriLife Extension wildlife management specialist, the price tag for that damage now is conservatively estimated to be about $52 million per year.

Feral hogs are not native to Texas, they are simply domestic hogs gone wild. With the potential for a female to have two litters a year and each litter having sometimes as many as 13 young, it doesn't take long for them to overrun an area, Cearley said. Under ideal conditions, the population can double in as little as four months. The home range for a feral hog is 2 to 3 square miles for sows and 20 to 30 square miles for the boars.

Feral hogs generally move in family groups called sounders, including grandmothers, mothers and pigs. The males are generally excluded from the group and live a more solitary life.

"They seem to move from one water source to another," Cearley said. "They are starting to move into areas we haven't seen them before.

"They are secretive, so you are not as likely to see them until the damage gets severe."

The key to managing their numbers is to catch them when they first come into a region, Cearley said. Hunting is a fairly effective way to lower the population, but will not be the solution.

"Perceptions differ about feral hogs," Cearley said. "Some people see them as a source of economic gain by way of paying hunters, others as a loss and liability.

"It is that tension between these two groups of people that causes problems getting control of them."

An increasing interest in feral hog hunting leases and guided hunts might be a silver lining to the problem, but it certainly won't solve the entire problem, Cearley said. They offer landowners, however, a way to recoup some of the money lost to the damage they do.

Also, feral hogs can be sold live to the meat trade. Texas Animal Health Commission rules and regulations must be followed regarding their movement and sale, he said. Along with those two positives, Cearley said it could be argued that as they root up the ground, they cause weeds to grow back where grasses were, and that is a benefit to game birds.

However, they are better known for their predation on young animals, whether wildlife or even sheep, goats and sometimes calves, he said. They also carry diseases such as pseudorabies and brucellosis.

The feral hogs will damage water gaps, tear up net wire, wallow out springs and damage spillways, he said. They leave behind damage in many crops, including corn, sorghum and especially to wheat and peanuts.

Wildlife impacts include predation on the young, the consumption of all the eggs of ground nesting birds they can find, and the tendency to dominate feeders and consume much of the feed targeted for other wildlife, Cearley said.

Welded wire hog panels on t-posts are good for protecting feeders, he said.

Some other methods of control or capture are:

Snares, which can be used for individual animals that might be sold for meat. Baited traps with rooter-type entry gates, which allow multiple catches at a time. Aerial hunting. AgriLife Extension's Wildlife Services can remove hundreds of hogs in a day using this method.

For more in-depth information on feral hogs and tips to help landowners get a handle on their populations, review the following Web sites: http://feralhogs.tamu.edu or http://wildlife.tamu.edu.

Jeffrey Stapper is the Agricultural and Natural Resources Agent for Nueces County. Readers may contact him at (361) 767-5217.