At long last, significant rainfall arrived in the Coastal Bend, just as area farmers and ranchers had hoped. Those rains coincided with the start of county livestock show season for the folks in Nueces County. Historically, the Nueces Junior Livestock Show, which begins on the second Saturday of January and concludes on the third Saturday, experiences some rain during that time.

If rain is missed during those seven days, it will likely occur the following week when neighboring San Patricio County hosts its annual Agricultural and Home Economics Show. Failure of a rain occurrence during these back-to-back shows is usually an indication of a dry spring.

Mid-January has produced some much-needed rainfall for the Lower Coastal Bend. Most locations received between one to two inches between January 15 and 20. The farmers we visited with during the Nueces County Junior Livestock Show were optimistic that these rains were adequate to allow the top soil to become wet enough to meet the deep soil moisture that remained from the late summer rains of last year.

The other bit of good news was that the long-range weather forecast increased chances for additional rainfall during the week of the San Patricio County livestock show. That would indeed improve soil moisture and ensure adequate seed germination in March for the row crop farmers, as well as promote pasture green-up with the return of early springtime temperatures.

Another very successful Nueces County Junior Livestock Show has concluded. It was the 73rd annual show held in Robstown for the county's youth exhibitors. This was the second year for the event to be held in the newly constructed regional fairgrounds facilities built by Nueces County.

During the planning and construction phase of these new facilities, the old phrase "build it and they will come" was frequently used. The gist of that phrase has certainly proven to be true as far as more youth involvement in show-related projects. This year the project count for Nueces County youth exhibits was 3,576. That surpassed last year's count by 253 projects. Much of the growth occurred in the home economics food division, but the market goat, market swine, turkeys and market rabbit divisions of the show made modest gains as well.

More youth with animal projects resulted in the biggest number of livestock exhibitors ever to receive blue ribbons and earn the right to sell in the junior livestock show's auction sale. This year's sale involved a record setting 860 lots. Students can enter only one market animal project in this show and they strive to select, feed and fit animals that will produce blue ribbons. Unfortunately, each year some animals do not gain or develop correctly, while others gain too much. These situations result in disqualification from show competition.

Fortunately for the youth of Nueces County who earned those coveted blue ribbons, buyer support remained strong during the course of the auction that ran continuously for fifteen hours and wrapped up at 1:23 a.m on Sunday morning. This is a real tribute to the dedicated buyers and hundreds of volunteers who remain committed to making the Nueces County Junior Livestock Show and Sale one of the very best in Texas.

Supporters are allowed to contribute additional dollars to show projects during the week that follows the auction sale. Therefore, sales totals were only preliminary at the time of this article's submission deadline, but show organizers remain optimistic that the 2008 sale total will move ahead of last year's record-breaking total $1.7 million mark, setting yet another record.

It is uplifting to see how a week of wet January weather can brighten prospects for farmers and ranchers, but it is even more heartwarming to see the joy of the youngsters who have had rewarding experiences with their project at the annual county show.

Harvey Buehring is the former Agricultural Extension Agent for Nueces County. Readers may contact him at (361) 767-5223.