FORT WORTH, Texas ― David’s Dream, Stone Sober, Shepherd Hills Tested and Honey Hush were housed in four pens side-by-side outside The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M., this past Sunday morning.
Three hours before the final two rounds of the Ty Murray Invitational, longtime PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert walked alongside those pens and estimated the four bulls would be valued at $2 million.
“That gets me excited,” said Lambert, who couldn’t keep himself from smiling.
Stone Sober – one of a few bulls that will contend with Bushwacker for this year’s World Champion Bull title – is thought to be the most valuable of the four.
Stone Sober bucks off Brant Atwood in 2.97 seconds to earn a bull score of 45.75 points in the championship round of the 2014 BFTS Sacramento Invitational in Sacramento, Calif.
Not coincidentally, he’s been the most sought bull after and has been the one every stock contractor seems to want buy this year.
While no one will confirm what they’ve been offering for the much-talked about Built Ford Tough Championship Round-caliber bull, owner H.D. Page confirmed that he and his father Dillon have been getting calls and messages “pretty regularly.”
“I look forward to bucking calves out of his daughters,” Page said. “We can afford to turn down a lot of money for one of those bulls just for that reason. That’s really not the right wording. I can’t afford to turn down that money – we need the money worse than anybody – but when those kind (of bulls) come around that jump in the air like he does and have that kind of ability it’s sure heritable and that’s probably why we’re able to turn down that kind of money.”
D&H Cattle Co. has been in the bucking bull business for 30 years.
Their entire program is based on breeding and when the Pages come across a bull like Stone Sober that can break at the flank and kick over his head, they see him as a keeper.
“His calves will bring a lot of money, so they’d be better off,” said Gene Owen, who handles and hauls bulls for a trio of major players—Jane Forbes Clark, Bobby Martin and Jimmy Roth.
As a buyer, Owen estimated it would take at least $300,000 to buy a bull like Stone Sober, while others put his value in the $500,000 range.
“That’s a lot of money and the banker would be happy, I’m sure,” said Owen, “but when you’re selling calves you got the factory when you own the bull.”
Like everyone else, Owen has Stone Sober rated as the No. 2 bull behind Bushwacker.
They bought his father Smooth Move several years ago for $130,000, at a time when Page said that type of money was unheard of.
However, the Pages liked Smooth Move’s athletic ability and, more importantly, his bucking style.
H.D. added, “What we hoped would happen is that some of those characteristics would breed true.”
In recent years, Page said the bucking bull market had “kind of fell off,” but it is now making a comeback.
“It’s a rank market,” Lambert said. “The bottom-end bulls, it hasn’t affected their value at all—not in the least because there are plenty of them and that’s not what everybody’s looking for.”
David’s Dream awaits competing at the Ty Murray Invitational this past weekend. Photo by Keith Ryan Cartwright / PBR.com.
Owen added, “The reason they do cost money is the short-round caliber bulls are few and far between. There’s a lot of long-round bulls out there, but even a good bull that can be 87 or 88 (points) is really hard to come by.”
Owen is among four top buyers Lambert mentioned along with Chad Berger, Matt Scharping and reigning four-time Stock Contractor of the Year Jeff Robinson. Scharping is handling and hauling bulls for Jared Allen, who is a National Football League free agent defensive end who walked away from a $6 million a year offer from the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks.
Lambert joked, “Maybe he’s just going to haul bulls all the time.”
Most years one or two of the top contractors might be in the market for high-priced bulls.
This year, everyone is looking to buy them.
Lambert said they’re willing to “peal back the money” for the right bulls.
“There are a lot of people wanting bulls right now,” said Owen.
Robinson added, “In the past it’s been two, three people looking, but now you have eight or 10 people looking and there’s just not that many short-rounders out there. They’re not cheap right now.”
In addition to finding 21.75 to 22-point bulls, Owen has the added task of knowing which of his partners are interested in any given bull he comes across.
“There’s a lot of pressure and lot of people looking,” Owen said. “They’re willing to invest money, but you have to find the bull. If you’re not careful you can spend a lot of money and not have anything when you’re done.”
Today’s market isn’t simply about filling a truck.
It’s about finding bulls that are already bucking in the championship round or have the potential to do so.
The search for bulls with potential has played well for the Pages and Boyd & Floyd Bull Company.
The week of the Dr Pepper Iron Cowboy V, Owen bought Raven Flyer—a bull in which Boyd & Floyd had been hauling for Steve and Julie Ravenscroft.
Ben Jones falls hard off Raven Flyer in Round 1 of the Ty Murray Invitational in Albuquerque. N.M.
Brad Boyd would have considered himself a buyer as opposed to a seller five years ago.
“It’s a great market,” he said. “We’re raising bulls and bringing them to town and people are wanting to buy them. These guys are looking for bulls to haul across America. Me and Toby (Floyd) have been working hard to get bulls ready.”
The increased market has led to tougher bull pens as Lambert’s job becomes easier knowing contractors are bringing their best bulls to the PBR, while also allowing him to be more selective with his choices.
“I love it,” Lambert said. “They know what they need. They know what they’re looking for.”
They need the next Bushwacker.
For some contractors, they actually want Bushwacker.
Julio Moreno said he’s fielded several offers for the two-time World Champion Bull that he plans to retire at season’s end.
One such offer came from Cody Ohl.
Ohl, a six-time World Champion tie-down roper, has been raising and hauling bucking bulls for several years and, in the past, has made no bones about his desire to haul a World Champion.
For Ohl, it’s as much about winning as it is making money.
However, more intriguing is the fact that Moreno and his wife, Kindra, have received numerous text messages from an unrecognized number from the 254 area code – Waco and Killeen, Texas, – inquiring about Bushwacker.
Bushwacker bucks off Markus Mariluch in 2.27 seconds, earning a bull score of 46 points in the championship round of the Ty Murray Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M.
Moreno said the messages are short and often ask questions like “Why do you want him?” or “Doesn’t Kindra want to go shopping?”
Lambert laughed when told of text messages.
“There are a lot of talkers,” he said.
Berger has also talked with Moreno, but he’s interested in buying Mr. Bull and Roy.
“Chad Berger is so aggressive and he’s a buyer and a seller every day,” said Owen, referring to Berger’s beef cattle operation. “That’s what he does for a living with the cattle deal as a cattleman, so buying and selling is just something he does. When he gets on the trail and he gets hunting, he’s real aggressive and he’s hard to outdo.”
Lambert, in referencing Berger, Robinson, Owen and Sharping, said a key is the fact that contractors understand the difference between an average bull and a champion.
“They know exactly what we need and they know the difference between a good amateur rodeo bull and Built Ford Tough Series champion bull,” Lambert said. “There’s a huge difference.”
“Everybody at home thinks they’ve got one that good,” Owen said, “but when you come to this event and the riders that are getting on them and the caliber of bulls, you see the difference. At home you don’t always see it on TV as you do live.
“There’s an elite group of bulls out there that are 22-plus.”
Robinson added, “Yeah, they’re in high demand right now.”
The veteran bull man recently bought a still unnamed 5-year-old a couple weeks ago that has never been to a BFTS event, much less a Touring Pro Division event and thinks his latest purchase will eventually develop into another short-rounder on one of his three trailers he hauls cross country.
“Like I said, it is so hard to buy a short-round bull or a Top-5 kind of bull – a bull of the year contender,” Robinson said. “It’s just tough.”
This year’s market was actually kick-started back in November when Wolf Creek Cattle Co., bought just about every bull – other than Asteroid – from Circle T Ranch & Rodeo.
Asteroid bucks off Stormy Wing in 2.37 seconds, earning a bull score of 46.25 points, in Round 2 of the 2013 PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals in Las Vegas.
Though some potential buyers – Robinson and Berger, who Owen said had been quiet for the past couple seasons – thought the asking price was too steep for bulls their age, Wolf Creek set the tone for 2014.
“They did,” agreed Lambert. “But I haven’t seen them do anything since. They brought a good set of bulls and they’re still good, but the only one that is as good as he was when they bought him is David’s Dream.”
Rex Meier, who was hired last fall by Dennis and Kathy Tebow to run Wolf Creek, laughs at the thought that their purchase got the game started.
“The bull market now has gotten crazy because there’s so many guys looking for them,” Meier said. “There (are) some new guys that came into the game and then, like Chad, he hasn’t replaced any to speak of for several years. It’s just time that he has to replace several.
He added, “I have a few at home and a couple that I’m bringing to Nampa, (Idaho) and Billings, (Mont.)—new ones. We’re looking too. We just (aren’t) hunting them high-dollar ones.”
Meier wasn’t ready to share their names other than to indicate they’re 5-year-olds that “did pretty good in the (ABBI) Classic deals.”
Meier thinks his new additions will do well at BFTS events.
Ultimately, a booming marketplace is also related to everyone’s desire to be named Stock Contractor of the Year.
“Yeah, I want it,” Berger said.
“Myself, if we have to go to all of them to win it we probably won’t,” said Owen, referring to Robinson’s record streak of consecutive BFTS events, which will reach 129 this coming weekend in Fresno, Calif. “We’ll go to a lot of them, but we’re not wearing out bulls to win it. If we have the numbers – if we have 30 of them and we can take 15 every time – then we’ll go to all of them.”
Owen added, “I think there’s an opening this year – not that Jeff doesn’t have good bulls – but it’s not a slam dunk for Jeff this year. I think Chad sees that and we see that. Everybody wants to be the contractor of the year and that brings not just prestige, but it’s good for business. It creates more partners, more jobs and there’s a lot that goes along with that, so everybody would like an opportunity to win it or be close.
“Jeff’s kind of had a hold on it.”
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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