The process to raise and nurture animals included extra challenges for contestants in the 75th annual Victoria Livestock Show this past week.
While most of the worry throughout the week was focused on keeping humans warm, area livestock show contestants kept their attention on keeping their animals safe. It required some innovation through alternative heaters, water and constant monitoring.
Much of the infrastructure buckled under frozen conditions that began Feb. 14. For the Miori family, who are members of the Nursery 4-H Club, it was their mission to not let their show chickens and heifers do the same.
To ensure their roughly 100 chickens were safe from the weather, siblings Anna Claire, Luke, Megan and James Miori took shifts throughout the night monitoring their chickens.
“There was one time when the temperatures had dropped 10 degrees in 20 minutes,” Amy Miori, the children’s mother, said. “We were constantly monitoring the temperatures.”
Their makeshift setup included an about 60 square-foot chicken cage they moved inside.
The family used heat lamps and space heaters to provide warmth. They wrapped the cage in tarps to keep the warmth in.
When the electricity went out, they had to use propane heaters, which they had already filled before roads were closed.
Toward the end of the freezing weather, Amy Miori said the family lost six of their show chickens, possibly because of too much heat.
When the electricity went out, so did the means to get water from their well to the spigot. Because of this, the family had to haul about 10 gallons of water to the chickens everyday.
Water was also a concern for Cody Robles and his two sons and two daughters who are members of the Bloomington 4-H Club.
Robles’ grandparents did not lose water unlike he did. So he and his children took “whatever they could get their hands on” to bring back drinking water for the show pigs they are raising.
“With it being so close to the show, water intake is a huge deal for them to keep eating and keep their weight up,” Robles said of the family’s show pigs.
Other Bloomington 4-H members could not supply water to some of their pigs for 24 hours, Robles said.
As some of the Robles family’s 26 pigs struggled to stay warm, a few fell ill but have mostly gained their health over the weekend.
Industrial Junior High eighth-grader Bo Neill said for his steer and commercial heifers, the past week could have been a lot worse.
Bo, who is also a member of the Inez 4-H, said he and his family were prepared with gas-powered electricity generators, propane heaters and plenty of feed.
As the cold weather persisted, the cattle needed more feed to stay healthy.
One of the cows he is not taking to the livestock show also gave birth just before the freezing rain began.
Bo had to spend more time checking on the calf to make sure it was warm and healthy. Calves are usually more susceptible to extreme winter weather than grown cattle, he said.
Neither the Robles family nor Neill lost any animals during the week of freezing temperatures.
Even walking to the barn was one of the hardest parts about caring for the Robles family’s show pigs during the week as ice and snow covered the ground for days, Robles said.
Despite the stress felt by many livestock raisers, Luke Miori said he didn’t think it was so stressful. He enjoyed the snow.