Moving The Outdoors In

Staff | September 28, 2010

In mid-February in Houston's Reliant Park, the air is thick with anticipation of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Many Texans make the trek to Houston every March as a rite of spring, but the Show is a truly international event.

General attendance at the 2008 Show was more than 1.8 million people. More than 2,000 foreign visitors came to Houston from 84 countries. Last year, the Show exported $1.5 million worth of breeding stock to overseas countries. With 30,258 livestock competitors and horse show entries last year, the Houston Livestock Show is the world's largest such event.

What makes the preparation so daunting is that the stadium, the six arenas, and thousands of pens, stalls and corridors all have concrete floors. Every surface must be covered with clay, sand, a combination of clay and sand, topsoil, or sawdust and wood shavings. Every time one group of livestock, say the goats, moves out of an area, it must be cleaned to prepare for the next round of animals, which could be hogs, chickens or sheep.

For many years, ROMCA, one of Volvo's Texas-area dealers, has supplied the Show with Volvo articulated haulers to make this earthmoving feat possible. For the first time this year, Volvo Construction Equipment and Services is contributing a Volvo MC90B skid-steer loader, a Volvo L25B compact wheel loader, and a Volvo BL70 backhoe loader.

Articulated Trucks Save Time

For 16 years, Archie Peterson, a ROMCO sales representative, has been a member of the Show's Equipment Acquisition Committee. Years ago, the Show used on-road tandem-axle trucks to haul all of the required clay, sand and topsoil into the grounds.

"I proposed using articulated dump trucks instead of tandem-axle trucks," says Peterson. "I figured the artic haulers would be faster. But show management was hesitant to use them, because they thought the tires would tear up the pavement.

"We did calculations to show that the big tires' loads per square inch would not exceed the limit of the concrete pavement," says Peterson. "So I brought one artic hauler to the grounds, to show that it would not tear up the pavement — and the next day they sent all the on-road trucks home."

That was huge for Show management, because the Show is a nonprofit charity event, and the on-road trucks were paid by the load. Because ROMCO donated the Volvo artic haulers, it saved the Show considerable money. "We cut the time to haul dirt to the Astrodome from two weeks to three days," says Peterson.

Compact Loader Is A Hit

Like the big artic haulers, the Volvo L25B compact loader is proving to be a smash hit at the Show as well. "We've got that baby loader in use everyplace on these grounds," says Greg Golightly, managing director of the Buildings and Grounds Department. "Everybody wants to use it."

Operator Mike Shively, who was using the Volvo L25B to fill some large planters with dirt, found the compact loader especially handy to get into and around the animal stalls, which are tight quarters. "The loader is very smooth. It maneuvers very nicely — gets me into tight places. The cab is very comfortable, and the hand controls are nice. I like them."

The Volvo MC90B skid steer loader is used for many of the same tasks as the Volvo L25B compact loader. The skid-steer loader can squeeze into the tight pens and stalls to spread bedding material — and it can just as easily clean them out, saving untold manual labor.

Strategic Marketing Tactic

Mike Strittmatter, product manager, Compact Equipment, Volvo Construction Equipment, is on the Show's Equipment Acquisition Committee this year for the first time. Both he and Peterson are enthusiastic about the exposure given to Volvo Construction Equipment both prior to and during the show. Equipment operators come from ranches and local contractors, from volunteer workers, and from Show staff. "A lot of people are operating this Volvo equipment for the first time, and they're finding that they like it," says Strittmatter.

"This show has more than 20,000 volunteers," says Peterson. "Every time you shake a hand here, it's a potential customer."

It's About The Scholarships

But the Show is not just about horses and livestock. It's about the scholarships.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a charity that benefits the youth of Texas. Since the show began in 1932, the Show has contributed more than $235 million to scholarships, research, endowments, calf scramble participants, junior show exhibitors, the Rodeo Institute for Teacher Excellence, School Art participants, and other educational and youth programs. Currently, 1,934 students are attending 88 different Texas colleges and universities on Show scholarships valued at nearly $24.8 million.

This article was contributed by Volvo Construction Equipment.