LAS VEGAS - Putting together a bull pen from one week to the next is no easy task for PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert. However, it's made a little easier knowing he can count on a stock contractor like Jeff Robinson to haul a truckload of bulls to each Built Ford Tough Series event all season long.
For the past three years, Robinson has maintained two separate trucks - one predominately on the East Coast, where his ranch is located in Mars Hill, N.C., and one on the West Coast. He divides the BFTS events east of Dallas and west of Dallas between the two.
"It absolutely makes it easier when I can count on one guy to bring 20-plus bulls," Lambert said.
In 2012, Robinson's bulls recorded 400 BFTS outs, including 68 in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
His bulls posted 13 more championship-round outs than Circle T Ranch & Rodeo, and three times as many as Chad Berger's bulls. They are the only three contractors with at least 200 outs on the season, while D&H Cattle Co. recorded 190.
With numbers like that, it's no wonder over 30 of the Top 35 riders in the world standings voted Robinson the Stock Contractor of the Year for the third year in row.
"I'm probably more satisfied with the way the vote turned out this year," said Robinson, who thought he was in a position to earn the honor, but wasn't sure until the results were announced, "because I don't have a bull-of-the-year favorite that I might have had in years past.
"All in all, I put two truckloads of bulls together that the cowboys appreciated."
Robinson is only the fourth contractor in the PBR to win the honor at least three years in a row. Berger, D&H Cattle Co. and Terry Williams previous accomplished the feat in past years.
"I've got kids from 3 to 22, so I have lots of shoes still left to buy."
When asked if Robinson was among the Top 5 contractors in the 19-year history of the PBR, Lambert agreed.
"Oh yes," he said, "definitely."
Robinson Bucking Bulls has been represented at 89 BFTS events in a row and 114 of the past 116.
As for the future, Robinson said everyone always wants to get better at whatever they're doing, but he's not so sure he wants his program to get any bigger than it already is.
Prior to Round 4 of the World Finals, which was the night he retired Chicken on a Chain, Robinson said there's a different mindset in trying to maintain a program than there is when it comes to building it.
He did a heck of a job building his program from the ground up.
He made his BFTS debut in 2005 when his bulls recorded 54 BFTS outs - only two of which came in the championship round - and he had 68 a year later. He then nearly doubled that total in 2007, when his bulls recorded 127 outs.
In 2008, he broke the 200 benchmark with 201, before reaching 357 in 2009.
He's led the way the past three years with 517, 537 and 400. In the past 10 years, only Chad Berger and D&H Cattle Co. have hauled more bulls than him.
"Yeah, and that's pretty good company," Robinson said.
As for being a top contractor three times, he said, "The first one was great and the second one was just trying to repeat, but the third one gives you a sense of validity."
An all-around athlete prior to pursuing a career as a contractor - he played junior varsity basketball at the University of North Carolina, while a student there for three years - he paralleled the consecutive honors to the success of the New York Yankees and the Michael Jordan era of the Chicago Bulls, when twice they won the title in three consecutive years.
"It's hard to keep it going," Robinson said. "This is my livelihood, and you want to be the best that you can be, but if I don't win next year, I'm not going to lose sleep over it. I'll know I did the best I could do."
Like every contractor, it's all about qualifying bulls for the World Finals.
He's had more bulls in Las Vegas the past three years - 20 in 2010, 17 in 2011 and 17 again this year - than any other contractor hauling bulls to PBR events. He would have had more the past two years, but the ABBI Classic bulls help to fill 55 spots over the course of two nights.
Not to mention, in recent years, the Finals has been six rounds as opposed to eight.
In addition to hauling bulls, he also produces and promotes several Touring Pro Division events from one coast to another.
Robinson formed what he referred to as a "unique partnership" with the PBR and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. The three entities will partner on a 10-event TPD series in 2013.
He also worked in conjunction with the PBR to put together a long-haul trailer that allows him to bring out several of his retired legends - Voodoo Child, Major Payne and I'm a Gangster, along with Chicken on a Chain - so fans can see them up-close at various BFTS, TPD and other events throughout the year.
In the meantime, he and his family - Jeff and his wife Ann have six kids - are back on their North Carolina ranch preparing for the New York event, which will open the 2013 BFTS season.
He's also planning to haul a few younger bulls to a few TPD events in November and December in an effort to "find a few diamonds in the rough" he can add to his two trucks for the upcoming BFTS season.
What about long term?
Robinson shrugged when asked about 10 years from now.
He said inevitably, everything comes to an end and now that he's in his 40s, he'd like to retire by the time he's 50 years old.
"The next eight or 10 years, I'd like to be closest to the top as I can be," said Robinson, before joking, "Bottom line, it's about making a living. I've got kids from 3 to 22, so I have lots of shoes still left to buy."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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