The 2018 Junior Livestock Show of Erath County is going to be bigger and better than ever this year with increased participation, improvements to the facility and more accurate digital programing when it kicks off Wednesday, Jan. 3, at the Erath County Livestock Arena.

“I think the numbers on everything are going to be up a little bit and something that is very exciting is that Bluff Dale has an FFA now so they will have quite a few exhibitors,” said Show Chairman Danny Phillips. “Three Way (ISD) is also looking to step in next year, so that’s going to hep and I think it’s just wonderful that more people are joining.”

Last year, insulation and new lights were added to the arena and Phillips said more improvements have been made to the facility this year.

“We poured concrete for the lamb and goat pens and the walkway for the staging area for the arena so that’s a big improvement,” Phillips said. “I think everybody will love that concrete, it’ll be so much easier to clean and deal with.”

Phillips said they are also trying to improve the digital side of things with the the ShoWorks software.

“We sent Brenda Haedge (show superintendent tech) to a short course at A&M to learn how to use ShoWorks to the fullest extent,” Phillips said. “She really learned a lot and we think that will save time and be more accurate in what we do. We’re more computerized than we were and we’ve kind of struggled in the past to get it all put together.”

Another exciting announcement is that the Junior Livestock Show of Erath County and the Erath County Livestock Association have merged to become one organization.

"Nothing changes, the stock show will continue as it always has. We’ve just merged two non-profit organizations to simplify the entire show and facility," Phillips said.

As far as the show itself, the E-T reached out to Stephenville High School FFA instructor Ryan Best who said there will be 70 Stephenville FFA members competing this year.

“Our students have worked incredibly hard preparing for the county stock show as well as the Texas Majors to follow this spring,” Best said. “We are so proud of our students and their families for the commitment to ethics, values, and excellence that they display in exhibiting their stock and projects.”

The students have entered 43 market hogs, 29 market lambs, 17 market steers, 11 breeding rabbits, nine market rabbits pens, eight single fryer rabbits, eight dairy heifers, seven ag mechanic projects, two market broiler pens and two breeding beef heifers.

“Many of the projects in which our students take part require months of preparation to ensure their animal is cared for and presented in the best way possible,” Best said. “This includes hours of grooming, training, and feeding per week. Many forego a vacation altogether in order to stay at home and care for their animals.”

Best said he enjoys seeing his students rewarded for all the hard work they’ve put in.

“It is something I am always excited to witness at a stock show. The county stock show is a great way for our students to educate the public about the agriculture industry,” Best said. “What I look forward to most about the stock show is the sense of accomplishment our students experience when they bring their animal(s) in and show them.”

Anyone can come out and watch the shows and Best encourages people to do so.

“With the average American being more than six generations removed from the family farm, it is encouraging to see young people who have committed so much time and effort to preserve the values of the industry which built our country,” he said.