PUEBLO, Colo. – Inside Chad Berger’s office on his Mandan, North Dakota, ranch lies hundreds of judging sheets from various Built Ford Tough Series, BlueDEF Tour and Touring Pro Division events.
The PBR’s reigning five-time Stock Contractor of the Year has risen back to the top of the bull business in back-to-back seasons thanks to a keen eye for scouting bovine talent across the country.
At each event he attends, Berger is scoring every bull that bucks. He then keeps the judging sheets for future reference if he one day decides to go ahead and purchase a bull to add to his pen.
Berger’s ability to find talent and then maximize an animal’s potential is a large reason he repeated as Stock Contractor of the Year this season.
It is also why he had a PBR-best 17 bulls selected to compete at the 2015 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
“Every event I go to, I watch every bull buck,” Berger said. “I don’t take my eye off one bull and when I like one and see one I like I kind of watch him a while and see how his consistency is. I judge every bull and mark every bull down and keep those sheets. I probably just pay more attention than most people. When I like one, I try to get him.”
It wasn’t just the 17 bulls that made Berger proud. It was the fact that he had nine buck in Round 2, arguably the rankest pen of the Finals.
“What was more impressive to me than winning the award was having nine bulls out on Thursday night in the rank pen,” he said. “That made me feel awfully good. That was the highlight. More than winning the award was having more than 25 percent of the rank pen.”
It is what many riders have come to expect from Berger and his pen and why they voted him as the Stock Contractor of the Year for the second consecutive season.
“He is at almost all of the freaking bull ridings and he shows up with good bulls every time,” J.W. Harris said. “Every time you get on one of his you have a shot at winning a round and that is why I voted for him.”
The recently-retired Renato Nunes added, “He has so many bulls you can win money on. Not many of his are dangerous. He has so many bulls that are in the 87-89-point range. Some people have five really good bulls, 90-92-point bulls, but they don’t have long-round bulls. That is why. That is the reason. He is a money stock contractor. All of the guys made money on his bulls.”
But it isn’t like Berger is just buying up all the good bulls in the world before anyone else has the opportunity too.
Instead, Berger is buying and then working on bringing out the bull’s maximum potential.
“There is a lot of people out there buying bulls, but you don’t hear much about them,” Berger said. “Once you got them, you have to know what to do with them. There is a lot of balance there. How to keep them in shape. Noticing when one isn’t quite feeling right and taking care of them and resting them when they need to be. There are a lot of things that go into keeping those bulls going. I grew up around cattle my whole entire life and I am in the cattle business. That is what I do. I buy cattle for people all over the United States. Being in the cattle business gives me a big advantage when it comes to the bucking bull business, knowing livestock and knowing animals.”
Just this year alone, Berger helped elevate Smooth Operator into World Champion Bull contention after swinging a deal to acquire the bovine athlete following two 45-point outings at the 2014 World Finals.
Smooth Operator went on to post eight 45-point bulls scores this season and was ridden just once in 17 outs.
Berger thinks he may have found another World Champion contender during this year’s Finals.
Always scouting on the back of the bucking chutes, Berger decided to acquire 3-year-old Wicked Stick.
J.B. Mauney won Round 1 of the Finals on Wicked Stick with a 91-point ride.
“I never had seen or heard of him,” Berger said. “Anytime a 3-year-old bull can go into the big bright lights of Las Vegas and take J.B. to 90 points and manhandle Cody Nance a couple days later. I can’t think of another 3 year old that would impress you more than that.”
Wicked Stick bucked off Nance in 3.09 seconds.
Still, Berger knows there is a benefit to raising your own bucking bulls and he is getting close to stockpiling his dominant pen with additional 3- and 4-year-old bulls from his ranch.
“We are starting to raise more now,” he added. “I got a set of 3-year-olds that will be 4 that I am pretty proud of. We are building our cowherd up every year and keeping our heifers. Eventually I will be able to raise a lot of mine. For now, I have to pay attention and go out there and try and keep my herd strong.”
He also knows that without his family, partners Clay Struve and Julie Rosen and sponsors, such as Cooper Tires, he wouldn’t have nearly the time or success he has had in the industry.
“I couldn’t do it without my family and partners,” Berger said. “None of this is possible without them.”
Berger’s five Stock Contractor of the Year titles ranks him second in PBR history.
With the additions of Wicked Stick, Circle T’s Crossfire and some 3- and 4-year-olds, Berger believes his pen will be stronger in 2016 than his past two two Stock Contractor of the Year campaigns.
Staples of his pen such as Smooth Operator, Cooper Tire’s Brown Sugar, Beaver Creek Beau and Cooper Tire’s Semper are also only 5 years old.
That could mean bad news for any aspiring Stock Contractor of the Years next season.
“I think I am stronger now than I was at the Finals,” Berger concluded. “I think I will be as strong, if not stronger, next year as I was this year.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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