Though there have been plenty of hogs, sheep, goats and cattle in the pens and show rings at this year’s North Texas State Fair and Rodeo, there are also signs that the nation’s extended drought is nibbling around the edges for some competitors.
Dry spells are common in Texas, as is the wetter-than-normal weather that usually follows a dry spell, according to Michael Schertz, superintendent for many of the competitions. However, the current drought has affected livestock owners for a while now, he said.
“Feed costs a lot more than it did three years ago,” Schertz said.
When compared to the droughts of the 1930s and 1950s, the recent droughts tended not to return to the same region, but were large and intense, according to the National Climactic Data Center — except in the western U.S., where the drought has been persistent.
Last weekend, in the open show — which breeders use to display the genetics and market the livestock they are developing — Schertz noted that the cattle judge had the drought in mind.
“She was looking for animals that were rugged and sound and could travel long distances to eat and drink and stay healthy,” Schertz said.
Those animals put on flesh easily.
“Cattle that are more durable and easy keepers, they can convert less feed to quality protein,” Schertz said.
Usually, youth prepare their animals for show with more expensive feed than an animal that also is grazing, Schertz said, adding that feed lots are probably paying the same price to finish animals for the market, too.
For youth showing standard breeds in the sanctioned and jackpot shows, families are finding they are watching their pocketbooks as they select animals to bring to the fair.
Cattle entries had been dropping over the past few years, Schertz said, but this year they are back up. Hog entries have been about the same.
Diedre Williams said that some students in her FFA program at Ryan High School don’t make back the money they put into feeding the animal.
“Usually they could recoup their costs, or even make a little money,” she said.
Chisholm Trail Middle School student Carson Read, 12, of Rhome, has been raising hogs for the past three years. She cares for her prize-winning hogs and cattle as her father, Shay Read, watches the feed prices climb.
A 50-pound bag of cattle feed, which lasts about two days, went for $9 last year. It’s nearly $12 this year. Rolls of hay, about $40 to $50 before the drought, run $70 to $100 now.
Show feed for hogs is climbing, too. A 50-pound bag went for $16 three years ago. This year, a bag, which lasts about 20 days, goes for $21.
But the experience is important to Carson, who remembers what she learned first.
“I learned respect, and how to speak in front of people,” she said.
The learning experience is the same whether she wins or loses, too.
“It’s that man’s, or woman’s, opinion and it’s different. You learn a lot,” she said.
The livestock shows finish today, with lamb and goat shows beginning at 2:30 p.m.
The fair and rodeo is at the North Texas State Fairgrounds, 2217 N. Carroll Blvd. For more information, call 940-387-2632 or visit ntfair.com.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.