FORT WORTH, Texas ― Last weekend, it was hard to get Chad Berger’s attention once the Built Ford Tough Series event began in St. Louis.
The longtime cattleman from Mandan, N.D., admitted, “As we’re speaking I’m looking at the replays on the screen.”
Sure all the contractors are known to line the back of the chutes and watch, but mostly they like comparing how their bulls fair to those of the other contractors. For Berger, last week’s BFTS event was different.
He was scouting new potential bulls for his own trailer.
“I pretty much let everybody know I’m looking for some good bulls,” Berger said. “Some of my partners (want) some more bulls and I’m going to go out and find them one way or another. Between now and spring I’m going to just keep on going after these people trying to buy them bulls.”
Berger began to make a concerted effort a few years back to raise more bulls than he buys – he went from a handful of cows to 75 head and was amazed last year how well his 2-year-olds did. However, he mentioned his championship round, caliber bulls are getting older.
He also said no contractor has done a better job at building and replenishing his short-round truck than the reigning four-time Stock Contractor of the Year Jeff Robinson.
“Right now I’m looking for bulls,” Berger said. “I need some short-round bulls. My bulls are getting old and it’s hard to find them good short-round bulls.
“I want to be one of the best contractors in the world and in order to do that you gotta have a lot of short-round bulls.”
After last season, Berger watched as Wolf Creek Cattle Co. became the latest major player in the bucking bull industry when they bought nearly all of Circle T Ranch and Rodeo’s bulls.
Berger said he would have liked to have those same bulls going down the highway on his trailer, but he is looking to buy 5-year-olds and perhaps 6-year-old bulls.
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“Those were awesome bulls and I’d love to have them,” Berger said, “but I just don’t want to put that kind of money out now for a bull that old.
“They all have some age on them, so (Wolf Creek is) going to have fun for a couple years and then they’re going to have to go look for more too. The bad thing about these great bulls is they get old fast.”
Berger said he likes big athletic bulls – as big as he can get them – that buck, but right now he is less concerned with how big or small they are and more concerned with whether or not they’re ready for the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
Can they handle the pressure at this level?
He’s looked at a lot of videos, but is often unsure of how younger bulls will handle top-ranked riders when they’ve never had riders of this caliber or confidence on their backs.
He said if a contractor can sneak up on one it’ll still cost between $40,000 and $50,000, but the great bulls are now $100,000 or more.
And unlike past years, a lot smaller contractors are less likely to part with the one or two bulls they have.
Six to eight years ago, it was an easier task for the likes of Berger, Robinson, Tom Teague and others to buy bulls and nowadays, according to Berger, “it’s hard to get them off of them.”
The change is likely driven by the notoriety of being on television and simply being part of the event. Smaller programs are willing to haul one or two bulls cross country even with the prospect of losing money and, of course, Marlene Henry has grown attached to Mick E Mouse, whose mother she bottle fed as a calf.
Berger is among a long list of contractors who have approached Henry.
No one has recorded more BFTS outs in the past 12 seasons than Dakota Rodeo (3,449). Right now, Berger is still hauling a truckload headlined bySmackdown. However, he’s only recorded 40 BFTS outs this year compared to 112 by Robinson.
That’s another reason Berger would like to find half dozen bulls or more.
He saw several ABBI Classic bulls and made a series of calls to no avail following the Oklahoma City event. He’ll be in Kansas City, Mo. again this week.
It’ still rather cold back in North Dakota, which makes it hard to buy bulls this time of year and then haul them straight up into the heart of winter, so he’d like to bring them up to his place in April.
Berger’s best-case scenario would be to get them in the spring, haul them north and then get some outs on them over the summer at various Touring Pro Division events in an effort to “get them ready for the fall run and try to get them to the World Finals.”
“I’m going after them,” Berger proclaimed, “and I’m going to get me a bunch of bulls—new bulls.”
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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