Cleburne High sophomore Blake Armstrong looks forward to the 2011 Johnson County Junior Livestock Show. He should.
Last year, Armstrong showed the grand champion yorkshire swine, which he parlayed into sufficient money to pay his feed bill.
But there’s another reason he gets a kick out of raising rooters.
“They’re like puppies,” Armstrong said. “They lay on you and chew on you,”
Are they as smart as puppies?
Don’t have to be, of course, as long as they impress the show judge.
“This year, I’m showing a hampshire and a york,” Armstrong said. “I haven’t been to any jackpot shows with them, so the county show will be their first time in the ring. That’s not too scary. Hopefully, they won’t take off running like the other pigs when they get in the ring.”
CHS freshman Jacob Blair is in hopes his jackpot experiences will prove helpful in preparing his porker, named Potts for Texas Tech footballer Taylor Potts, for the big show.
Potts struggled in the pre-county shows, unfortunately. Perhaps the competing swine arranged a blitz.
“I got nine-out-of-11 in one and 11-out-of-11 in another,” he said. “I learned that I need to even out the back of her body. You try to make sure they don’t run out there, because that’s a bad start, and you want to keep the pig between yourself and the judge so the judge can always seen the pig. Also, you want to keep the pig away from the fence and corners, because the judge won’t look at them like that. My pig has been cooperative for the most part.”
Potts is a growing piggy.
“She’s 180 to 190,” Blair said. “I want her to weigh at least 230.”
Blair passed up rabbits and chickens to raise a project twice his size.
“My dad and I talked about it, and he thought it would be a good idea to get a pig, and my uncle had a few pigs,” Blair said. “I figured if I got a pig, my uncle could talk to me about it. It’s great so far. I love coming out here [to the ag barn]. The cold weather doesn’t bother me that much.
“We have to bring our water sometimes when it freezes. We give them more food in the winter because that’s when they eat more. I bet if they could speak up, they’d say thank you.”
Armstrong isn’t quite so philosophical about the cold.
“I hate it,” he said.
How does he motivate himself to do what needs to be done?
“My mom reminds me.”
When you’re a vocational ag student preparing a project for a show, you do whatever it takes, CHS ag teacher Barney McClure said.
Students were in and out of the Wheat Ag Complex Tuesday morning when it was 10 degrees. One young man was bundled up in a heavy coat ... and shorts.
“Most of these animals are pretty far along in the feeding process, so they can take a lot of cold weather if they’ve got something to eat and drink,” McClure said. “The main thing is water. The water at the [small animal] barn is cut off, so we have to get water from the chicken barn. If the animals don’t have fresh water, that’s a pretty bad deal.
“They also need more food this time of year because they burn it up in order to stay warm. They could eat 25 percent more on a day like this. But if they don’t have water, they can’t eat.”
For the most part, animals fare better in extreme cold than extreme heat. Pigs, goats and lambs all appeared festive Tuesday, and the conditions were downright balmy in the chicken coops.
“The animals are equipped for this weather,” McClure said. “They’ve got some kind of hair or fur or feathers, and they’re used to being outside. They can make it as long as they’re out of the rain and wind.
“The chickens are still under heat lamps. They’ll make it pretty well as long as the electricity doesn’t go off.”
Students learn early that show animals can’t always fend for themselves. Of course, some students struggle to fend for themselves, too.
“Sometimes they have to rely on parents and classmates for rides out here,” McClure said. “On a school day, they can take care of their animals before and after school. On days like this, it’s tougher. But they still have to do it.”