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Behind the Chutes: Mitch Russell

By: Kacie Albert

In the sport of bull riding, there are two athletes in every out – rider and bull.

With the league’s animal athletes holding such a crucial role in the sport, it is without question that the PBR’s devoted stock contractors are pivotal to bull riding’s continued growth.

Today we catch up with Mitch Russell, who in partnership with Edward Throsby, has helped pioneer the use of American bucking bull genetics in Australia, partnering with the iconic D&H Cattle Co. outfit based in Oklahoma.

Marking the second installment of Behind The Chutes, hear from the Russell about the process of integrating American genetics into his pen, some of his standout bovine athletes, and the significance of ABBI events to the development of the next generation of superstar bucking bulls.

Miss, the first edition of Behind The Chutes? Click here to read the first edition when we caught up with Troy Keliher.

PBRAustralia.com.au: Bucking bulls are genetically bred to buck. Can you talk about the significance of genetics to you program?

Mitch Russell: Our program is widely based on Australian bucking stock breeding, purchased from a variety of breeders within Australia, and with an American influence through some of the cows to which we breed our bulls. We started with being all Australian bulls, but now with the introduction of our USA embryo, we have the 100% USA bulls going over our cows, and then the heifers by our embryo bulls joined to Australian and USA bulls via artificial and live breeding.

PBRA: You were one of the first to buck full 100% American bred cattle in ABBI Australia and PBR Australia events via embryos from H.D. and Dillon Page. Can you tell us about your relationship with the Pages? What is involved in importing embryos from the United States? And who are a few of these bulls that have come from Page bulls?

MR: With a lot of help of a couple Australian bull riders living in America for some time at the time we got the ball rolling. With them asking the Pages and setting up a deal for us, then meeting them to do a deal to import some embryos.

Technology and emails have helped a lot with the back and forth with it, but honestly just having a guy there doing the deal and knowing the stock helped us seal the deal with H.D. We could not have done it without them to be honest.

#550 Crackalackin and #556 Let’s Party Marty being the two standouts from the first initial program, but with some more younger ones and some bulls out of their sisters.

PBRA: When you work with American stock contractors, what do you look for in both the sire and damn? What are key qualities that stand out to you?

MR: Consistency of the actual bucking bull, and also the family line of what is producing good stock.

PBRA: Why did you pursue a relationship with the Page’s and how do you think the new genetics you have brought to Australia has overall improved the nation’s stock?

MR: The Page brand is the biggest in the world for bucking bull genetics, so why not try the best? To be honest, we haven’t shared any as we feel very blessed to have these in our program and don’t want to share and flood the market.

PBRA: ABBI is the chance for young bovine athletes to begin their competitive careers. What value do these events bring for stock contractors? And how do they help the nation continue to improve its quality caliber of bulls?

MR: ABBI is a great outlet to get stock to the arenas to prepare and educate them. Not every breeder has rodeos and events to prepare them for bulls’ PBR careers as it’s very hard to prepare and know if they have what it takes by just training at home without the miles to see if the animal has what it takes to fit the standard of the PBR. The ABBI events can enhance the exposure for what could be their future.

The competition is very strong at ABBI events. The will to win has increased the caliber 10-fold over the last 10 years of the bulls presented at ABBI events.

PBRA: What is your most memorable moment from competing in ABBI events?

MR: Probably winning two buckles with two USA embryo bulls at one event after all the hard work to get them bulls to the stage to where they could compete and win.

That’s Crackalackin, he won the Limited Futurity, and Let’s Party Marty, who won the Derby at Dubbo ABBI event.

PBRA: Who was the first standout bull from your program? Tell us a little bit about his career?

MR: #264 Call Me Joe was the first bull we fully bred and won a Bucking Bull of the Year with. We had won four Bucking Bulls of the Years before him with bulls we purchased and got going as young bulls, but he was the first we fully bred.

He has won two Bucking Bull of the Years in a rodeo association and been a standout in the PBR over the last few years with multiple Bull of the Events. He’s also helped with many bull team awards and a few 90-point rides also over the years.

PBRA: Who are a few bulls you think will be the next stars from your pen? Tell us a bit about them?

MR: It’s been pretty tough with COVID to get some bulls ready over the last year, but Crackalackin and Let’s Party Marty should be up there with some of our top bulls this coming year going off what they were starting to do before COVID hit.

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