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. Most Coastal Bend locations received between one to two inches between Jan. 15 and 20.

The farmers we visited with were optimistic that these rains would be 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. Additional rainfall occurred during the week of the San Patricio County's livestock show.

During that two-week span, measurable rainfall was recorded in Robstown at the Nueces County Record Star newspaper office 10 out of 14 days, with a total accumulation of 2.29 inches. This significant improvement in soil moisture should provide adequate seed germination in March for the row crop farmers, as well as, promote pasture green-up with the return of early springtime temperatures. As usual, there were locations to the west of Corpus Christi and Robstown that recorded lower rainfall amounts ranging from one inch to an inch and one-quarter.

The 73rd annual Nueces County Junior Livestock Show held in Robstown during mid-January was a tremendous success. 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 agricultural mechanics, 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 15 hours and wrapped up at 1:23 a.m. 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.

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 youngsters who have had rewarding experiences with their project work at the annual county show. In Nueces County, auction sale 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 of $1.7 million setting yet another record.

In the months ahead, a new agricultural column prepared by Jeff Stapper, Nueces County Extension Agent, will be alternating in this publication with my column.

For the past 25 years, the Record Star has printed weekly articles, most under the banner of "Farm and Happenings," in an effort to keep readers informed on issues and conditions affecting the farmers and ranchers of South Texas. The Record-Star's continued dedication to cover and print agricultural news is greatly appreciated by the agricultural community.

Reflecting on the past quarter century, I have prepared just over 1,250 articles with just as many deadlines.

Those "every-Monday" deadlines are a more demanding task than this semi-retired, non-professional writer cares to deal with on such a regular basis. Some wonderful people including my long-time secretary, Margie Hoelscher, and my devoted wife, Jane, have been a tremendous help in getting these articles prepared, proofed and critiqued over the years.

A "thank-you" also goes to Sam and Vicki Keach for providing the opportunity to have a weekly agricultural column and for their support and encouragement.

And finally, thanks to all of you loyal readers. Your kind comments have served as my pay and motivation to continue preparing weekly articles. I hope you will extend those same courtesies to Mr. Stapper as he assumes his new responsibilities.

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