When I first started out in the bucking bull business, I thought I knew it all. I'd grown up around cattle, and felt like I'd been around bucking stock a whole bunch, considering I'd helped out the contractor who put on our high school rodeos. Looking back on the whole first year I was getting started, I don't know how both my bulls and I survived.
We all have to start somewhere, and even though I don't know everything there is to know (though I have to admit sometimes I am a bit of a know-it-all), I've learned a lot from my peers and from the cattle themselves, so I feel pretty confident in a lot of different situations.
Everyone has to make their own situations work in whatever way they are comfortable with, and the way I work cattle may not be the way the next person does, but there are a couple little things I've picked up over the years that I think are pretty important, and can really help out if you are just getting started. There are a lot of things in this business, or any business for that matter, that people don't think to share, but it would be nice to know! So for Christmas, I'm going to give a little knowledge to all of you getting started!
1. Always tie your gates! OK, so I know this is something most everyone knows, but I see a lot of people go to load cattle on the trailer and not tie their gates. I'm just as guilty of it as anyone. What happens is that your cattle jump on the trailer, or hit the gate, and it swings shut, opening a hole up for your cattle to get through. I had this happen once and had a bull end up in downtown Sheridan, Wyo. The important thing is to tie it with a knot that will come loose when you pull on one side. You don't want to get stuck there trying to untie a square knot and give some hookin' bugger a free shot to run yo' butt over.
2. Keep your setup running smooth. When all of your gates are loud and squeaky, latches don't work right and there are a lot of places bulls could injure themselves, it makes things much harder on both you and your cattle - especially if you are working young stock. Also, I think making sure every gate is quiet is really important. Squeaking, slamming, etc, can get cattle really stressed, and makes them act like little idiots. Keep a thing of WD40 around and handy! Also, keeping the dirt dug out from under the slides in your lead-ups and bucking chutes is often overlooked, but really important. I don't know how many times I've gone to shut a slide and it wouldn't go, causing a bull to hit a hip or do something that could hurt him.
That doesn't cover half of what I've learned in the few years I've been doing this, but those are a couple of the first things I try to share with people when they ask advice. I'm a big advocate for safety for both handlers and cattle, and I feel like keeping certain things in mind is what separates the good cattlemen from everyone else.
I hope everyone has a very blessed and Merry Christmas!
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