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.