Stock contractor 102

For those of you who aspire to be a stock contractor when you grow up and estimate that you will have enough GUT and BUTT to fit in with your peers—well… here’s the Dell Hall way of setting bulls at a four performance rodeo. (Granted there aren’t many left since they have to give two head in the timed events). He bucks most of his best bulls three times. That was also Neal Gay’s MO when he was out rodeoing. Donnie did the same when he owned ALL STAR.

Not only does it beef up the draw and improve the rodeo–it also may save a guy a load of stock and with $1.60 diesel that’s important. Too many outfits haul way too many sale barn rejects and bulls that used to buck (that maybe have one good day a year). They feed way too many bulls all winter. I know its tough because some contractors get attached to their ol’ campaigners but there just isn’t enough profit in rodeo to operate this way. Cut your herds, worm, feed better, and buck the suckers. It is the hauling that gets them—not the bucking. Most bulls aren’t going to have long careers like horses anyway.

Every once in a while I’ll hear a contractor brag that he has 100 head of bulls. Well, how frickin’ stupid is that guy? It’s one thing if some are of different age groups that they are bringing along. Owning 50-60 mature bulls is another matter. If he or she (or it) happens to be a rich person (creature) PLAYIN’ rodeo/bull riding and needs a tax write-off I guess it’s okay but for everyone else who needs to make a living —that is just NUTS and damned bad business.

Leasing a few top enders or trading “outs” back and forth with other contractors is more cost efficient than owning them. Feed, interest, tied-up capital, labor, time, and headaches—it just isn’t worth it. If you excluded four or five outfits you could cut nearly every other herd by a 1/3 and some by 1/2. If you figure a bull costs $1.50 a day to feed and you cut 20 head off—that’s $10,000. There are several outfits that do not have a $10,000 NET profit at year-end. The rulebook minimum says you must have 20 bulls. Owning 40 makes little economic sense for most RODEO contractors no matter how big their rodeos are. Twenty 18 point bulls do nothing but hurt your pocket book and the rodeo business.

The writing is on the wall. Several small outfits can top their herds and bring a stronger pen to a major rodeo than a big outfit that tries to use anything other than the top end of his/her/it’s own herd. To stay in the game the big outfits are going to have to cut their overhead (own/haul fewer) and smarten up. Lease the BEST stock (at a fair rate) to compliment the top end of their own outfits and pass the additional cost on to the rodeos. That CAN be done.

And when I say BEST stock… the deal of having say ten different contractors at a big rodeo means NOTHING unless they have depth in their quality. Bringing ten head of an outfit’s bulls when they really only have three good enoughs just because that fills out their load, or they have horses, or makes it makes it worth their while—isn’t good enough—any more. Yes, it will cost more per head to get them to bring fewer animals but it should cost more. Quality deserves a premium. That cost has to be and can be passed on.

The bull riding is different from the horse events in that judges generally just double the stock score to get their total score. Success is contingent upon bull performance. We don’t need the rankest bulls in the world but we do need good solid 20 pointers or better. They are out there in numbers greater than ever before. We just can’t have the dinks. Bring 20 point or better bulls and you’ll still have a few that don’t buck well. That’s okay. That’s expected but you have to at least BRING good bulls to the rodeo. That is reasonable. That is something the contestants and the ticket buyers should expect. Over a period of time you can rebuild the trust and it will result in increased tickets sales at a higher price. PBR has proven that people will pay more to see the best.

No… don’t be coming with that “Yeah… but we don’t have the best bull riders” excuse. We have some of them—more than people are led to believe. We’d have even more if they could count on getting mounted to where it was a riding contest instead of a drawing contest. Our young bull riders will never be able to fully develop in rodeo unless the bulls going to rodeos improve.

Big rodeos aren’t going to be able to slide by duping the public by saying they have lots of contractors and the very top stock. If the rodeo committee doesn’t respond the contestants are likely to call them on it—in the media–before, during, and after the rodeos. I don’t mean that as a threat it’s just something that I think will occur based on what the horse eventers have accomplished in recent years. Bull riders don’t have to go to the media… PBR is quick to point out rodeo’s deficiencies. And even if they don’t—people can turn on their television and see high quality bulls. They come to a rodeo and expect to see comparable quality.

There are many reasons why PBR is doing well while rodeo attendance is soft if not declining. Better product for sure. Recognizable stars—yep. Consistency of the product—uh huh. But one of those reasons is that PBR is on television and people are getting wiser—more aware. Even if the rodeo ticket prices are comparably low people STILL spend a lot of money and time coming to a rodeo and they don’t like to be taken advantage of. You may get them ONCE but they won’t be back and they’ll tell others. Rodeo stock has to get better. You have to advertise the top stock and advertise them as individuals—just like you do the cowboys.

It is either that or see your best contracts get piece-mealed away. The good ol’ boy days are numbered. Rodeo Managers are getting replaced. Old friends are getting older. Contestants are going directly to the committees, sponsors, and the media. In the last five years the horse event contestants have influenced changes of stock contractors at many rodeos. I don’t see them changing their tactics. They can’t make a living unless they have the best stock to get on at the rodeos they go to. If anything they will become more aggressive.

Back to Basics Economics:

Feeding 20 bred cows will make you a lot more than feeding 20 used-up bulls. And if I owned a good bull, instead of walking around with my head in the clouds thinking I’m gonna sell thousands of straws of semen at $300 a pop —I’d be going door to door trying to GIVE IT AWAY to people with good herds of cows in exchange for a first right to buy any of the calves (bulls or heifers) at a few cents over market. With bulls selling for $10,000-$75,000 I’d rather have 50 bull calves to look at every year than the $3,000 of semen sales.

Have some formerly great bulls that you just can’t make yourself sale barn? Do like Bennie and Rhett Beulter do. Either give them to, or sell them to, neighbors or others who have a few cows. They’ll have a good home and you can buy the calves.

Many of the greatest bulls in rodeo history were born out of wedlock. Rodeo bulls escaping then raping and pillaging the local farm or dairy herds. The great General Isamo was a notorious jumper—traveler. A scoundrel. Had his way with the prettiest for miles around. Herfs… Angus… Shorthorns… Longhorns… Charlais …. Holstein… Jersey… Brown Swiss….polled… horned…. (a non discriminatory kind of guy). Jump in… do his business… jump out… hide out… traveled at night… a real desperado. There was a period of years where you could buy better rodeo bull prospects at Weld county sale barns than you could at bucking bull sales.

Some of the best bulls ever to see the rodeo arena were the least likely looking individuals. Mongrels. You shoot enough bullets—you’re gonna hit. Dump enough semen in cows… run um in–put a dummy on um–and see what you got. A few cows have proven themselves as being producers of bulls that spin. Very few bulls have. It’s probably too early in the game to make any decisive judgments on the genetics deal but heck it has become a mini industry. Its fun… some people are making money with it … its interesting to the public… I don’t want to throw a wet blanket on it. Certain herds HAVE produced good prospects annually for a number of years. How successful individuals will be trying to mimic that success is still an unanswered question.

So…the rodeo season is winding down….

back the truck up and have the hired man load um up. If you don’t have a hired man—let your wife take care of it. Wives/mothers are tougher—more practical. They’ve buried lots of green parakeets in cigar boxes. Put a scotch cap, a pair of coveralls, some big ol’ muck lucks on a half dozen stock contractor wives and hand them whips—they’d get some things straightened out in short order. For one thing… the world wouldn’t need nuclear weapons any longer. Fifty stock contractor wives dressed and armed as I described would have taken Iraq in three days. Saddam would be feeding stock, setting up arenas, and untying calves. Don’t think I’d trust him driving a stock truck.

The world is changing…. you’ve got to cut your overhead, concentrate on quality, and charge more providing for a better product.

Class Dismissed.


Jumping And Spinning, A Ballerina With Hooves

The World’s Rankest Bull: Since October of 2009, no professional bull rider has been able to stay on Bushwacker for eight seconds. At a recent P.B.R. event in Pueblo, Colorado, the riders explained why he’s so tough to ride.
Published: July 19, 2011

Dustin Elliott, a 145-pound professional cowboy, popped into the chute and felt energized by the lights above and the 1,600-pound bull beneath him. He wrapped a rope around his right hand, twisted right to left four times, then bounced up and down three times. The bull, meanwhile, looked casually to the left and waited.
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Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
Bushwacker stands atop the Professional Bull Riders list of the world’s rankest — or toughest to ride — bulls.
“He’s got a real cool arrogance to himself and then when the gate opens he just explodes,” Shorty Gorham, a bullfighter, said of Bushwacker, who usually bucks most pros in three seconds or so. “But leading up until then you would think he’s just some farm pet that didn’t have an ounce of buck in him.”

Since October 2009, no cowboy has ridden Bushwacker for even eight seconds, the minimum needed to earn a score, and the average is 3.01. In 2010, he jumped, kicked and spun his way to more than $335,000 from American Bucking Bull Inc., which awards prize money to bulls. With an average score of 46.01 out of 50, he stands atop the Professional Bull Riders list of the world’s rankest — or toughest to ride — bulls. But it’s not the numbers that have the cowboys tweaked.

“He’s a smart bull,” the rider Robson Palermo said. “Every time he leaves the chute he got something for you.”

With a relaxed swagger in cramped quarters, hops that should not originate from hooves, and a stable of freakish, syncopated moves that have left riders flummoxed, Bushwacker sometimes appears more ballerina than bovine. In Springfield, Mo., last year, he bucked the rookie of the year, Silvano Alves, headfirst into the dirt, swung rump over muzzle, landed on his right-front foot, and Eskimo-kissed the ground.

Hours before his encounter with Elliott in the United States Air Force Invitational in late May, as the sun rose over his pen in Pueblo, Colo., Bushwacker champed a mix of hay, grain, vitamins and minerals. His trainer, Kent Cox, laid out the feed so the bull would dine at least 12 hours before bucking.

“You can’t eat a big old bowl of spaghetti and go run a marathon,” Cox said.

On days when the bull riding starts at 2 p.m., Cox rises at 2 a.m., ignoring the headaches that have plagued him since he took a horn to the right side of the face while riding a one-ton bull in 1997. The impact shattered his cheekbone, eye socket and nasal cavity. He had five operations to install 13 plates in his head.

A year and a half later, he got back on a bull. He could still ride, but he had lost the desire. He transferred his energy into training bulls.

Cox has had great success with Bushwacker, who took home the single biggest check when he won the $250,000 A.B.B.I. Classic Championship during the Professional Bull Riders finals last October. Money also comes from breeding. Earlier this year, a collector took sperm from Bushwacker. It sells for more than $2,000 a straw. The average bull can fill 150 straws per collection.

To help owners pair potential mates, the A.B.B.I. tracks the lineage of every premier dam and sire and the bucking success of their offspring. And though Bushwacker’s line sounds as if it came from the police blotter in a seedy Southwestern drag, it is rodeo royalty. Diamond’s Ghost sired his mother, Lady Luck. Oscar’s Velvet sired his father, Reindeer Dippin’, an ornery bull who went unridden in the P.B.R. three separate years.

“When Bushwacker was a baby he was mean — he’d hook my horse,” said his co-owner Julio Moreno. “Kent’s got him to where, you know, he could eat of your hand now.”

At noon, Bushwacker lay in his pen. He is caramel, except for the tilted white H on his face, the “1 3 6” scar branded to his left rump and white horns cut off into nubs.

Cox helped two cowboys and a cowgirl herd bulls into a truck. His wife, Gina, watched from a deck behind the pens.

“I call him the bull whisperer,” she said. “He lives, breathes and eats bulls, and if you don’t moo, he doesn’t care about you.”

Gina Cox grew up in a rodeo family in Illinois. On weekends, she helps out as a P.B.R. secretary.

“I consider the finals in Las Vegas our vacation,” she said. “And that’s maybe two hours of sleep every night.”

She laughed and ran her right hand over her left forearm, a $65,000 digital prosthetic. In 2004, she lost the arm in a car wreck.

“That was the one time he never left my side — for two weeks,” she said of her husband. “And probably the only time he was away from the bulls for that long.”

As Cox helped guide four other bulls to the trailer, Bushwacker looked out through the fence.

“You know that bull loves his job,” Gina Cox said. “Because when that trailer leaves and he’s not on it, you can tell he’s upset.”

She worries about her husband. He has had at least 13 concussions and often enters the pens to train the bulls with only two blue heeler cattle dogs at his side. He has been knocked down more than once.

As Cox swung open the gate to Bushwacker’s pen, the bull stood still and twitched his right ear into a cup. Cox walked in. Bushwacker trotted out. Soon he was on the truck and off to the arena.

The haul was a short one, comparatively. Cox drives Bushwacker from his home in Dublin, Tex., to more than a dozen events around the country.

After an hour-and-a-half nap at the hotel, Cox showed up behind the Colorado State Fair Events Center at 7. Pyrotechnics went off inside. Bushwacker waited amid a sea of fencing, swinging tails and tilting horns.

Cox went inside and clanked up steps to the platform behind the chutes. Chaw dripped off a grate that creaked under the weight of paunched contractors and square-jawed cowboys.

Cox flanked the 28th and 29th bulls, steadied riders in the chute by holding their shoulders and drawled with cowboys. The gate slammed open. Clumps of dirt flew up into the scrum of hats.

Shortly after 9 p.m., after more than 40 bulls had gone out, Bushwacker ambled into the chute. Cox stood over his still flank. The opening piano from Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” blared from the speakers. Elliott finished squirming and nodded vigorously. The gate opened.

Bushwacker short-hopped into the arena. Drool flew out of his mouth and whirled over Elliott’s head. Bushwacker bounded more than two feet into the air, kicked his hind legs up, and drove his front legs into the ground. Instead of waiting for his back legs to touch dirt, as most bulls do, he sprung off his front feet immediately.

This is Bushwacker’s signature move, and it is as effective in its offbeat athleticism as a point guard executing a crossover dribble to ditch a defender. Elliott came forward and lost the weight of his feet underneath him.

Possibly sensing the rider’s weight shift, Bushwacker staccato-hopped to the right. He accelerated into five successive spinning jumps. His tail whipped his own rump with emphatic snaps. Elliott flew to the right and hit the dirt. The clock showed 6.57 seconds.

Bushwacker kicked out of the arena and into the night. He stopped at the last gate and waited for the next truck. Inside, after the last ride of the night, Kent and Gina Cox walked over to Elliott.

“There’s nobody that we’d be prouder to have ride him first,” Gina said. “That’s for dang sure.”

Then Kent Cox put his arm on his wife’s back and left the arena smiling.

“This is what we work all week long to come do, and the results are here,” he said. “He did his job, and, yeah.”