While the cowboys and cowgirls get the accolades and paychecks, the success of a rodeo depends largely on the quality of livestock on which the competitors perform.
Helping make the SandHills Stock Show and Rodeo a success is stock contractor Beutler and Son Rodeo Co., a family-owned company out of Elk City, Okla., that has been involved in rodeo for 90 years.
The company got its start in 1929 as Beutler Brothers with siblings Elra, Jake and Lynn joining forces. Elra then teamed with son Jiggs to form the original Beutler and Son, which continued into the 1980s when Bennie, the third generation of the family to get into stock contracting, partnered with E.K. Gaylord to form Beutler and Gaylord, which was named PRCA contractor of the year in 1997.
With Bennie’s son, Rhett, joining in, the firm is back to being Beutler and Son and maintains a strong presence in the sport.
“There were 80-something contractors (at the National Finals Rodeo in December) and we were third on the amount of livestock, who took the most,” said Rhett, who oversees the day-to-day operations. “We’ve been right there in the top three the last five or six years. It just varies by horse or bull, one or two each year.”
Since the end of the NFR on Dec. 15, Beutler has been getting stock ready for the SandHills, one of about 25 rodeos the company will contract for this year.
“We’re just keeping everything in shape so when you’re ready to roll out and come to an event like this, everything’s in shape,” Beutler said. “They look good for the spectators when they run around the arena, plus they buck to their performance to give the cowboys a chance to win money.
“You’ve got to have them in top physical condition to perform like that. They’re just like an athlete running a race or a boxer fighting.”
And don’t think the cowboys don’t keep track of which companies provide the broncs and bulls they like when it comes to plotting out a schedule for the year.
“Right now, Odessa’s kind of the only thing going on so guys will come,” said Jacob Lewis, a saddle bronc rider from Stephenville who pulled into a tie for third place Saturday with a 77-point ride. “But in the summer, there’s three or four or five rodeos a weekend. You kind of pick where you know the horses.
“It’s pretty handy having Bennie come and bring good horses for the first rodeo. Everybody gets to see what we’re looking at for the rest of the year.”
For bullrider Daylon Swearingen of Rochelle, Ga., who scored a 73 Saturday to move into fifth place, it’s part of being on the pro circuit.
“You want to go to where the good stock is,” Swearingen said. “This is a big rodeo, the first big rodeo of the winter, so a lot of the good guys are going to be here.
“There’s a lot that goes into it with the stock contractors. They’ve got to supply so many bulls. It’s a tough business to be in.”
Rhett Beutler said the trick is to find the right mix of bucking stock, animals that will put on a good show yet still allow cowboys the opportunity to post a score.
“There’s different caliber of horses and bulls,” he said. “You’ve got the ones that are nice to ride that a guy can be 75-80 points on and get a good check. Then you’ve got the ones that buck really hard and are tough to ride, but if you do make the whistle you can be 85-90 on. There’s just different types of animals.”
Beutler and Son provides a total package for rodeos, providing roping steers and calves in addition to bucking stock.
In addition to everything else that goes into being a stock contractor, Beutler must constantly keep an eye on updating his herd as younger animals move up to replace older ones.
“We raise 95 percent of our own stock,” he said. “We try to have the next set coming, kind of like college football, your freshman class. We try to have a top-notch freshman class so you know as some of your other stuff’s getting older, you’ve got this freshman class coming that you think is going to be good.
“That picks up the slack as your animals get older. The bigger stars, you can let them rest a little bit and bring these 25 head of young horses that you bucked five or six times last year and buck them 15 or 20 times this year.”
And getting animals selected for the NFR is the big measuring stick for contractors.
“That’s kind of what you work your whole year for,” Beutler said. “You go to these rodeos and showcase your animals so the cowboys see them. They remember them, so when it comes time to go to Vegas they can say they were 88 on that sucker. They remember all that stuff.
“It’s a great feather in your hat. When you get out there, you just hope they perform the way they’re supposed to, like they have all year.”
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