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For the fifth year in a row, Bobby Joe Hill's Hill Rodeo Cattle assembled the three pens of M-branded cattle for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo team roping. 

[Related: NFR Steers' Unlikely Journey From Mexico to Vegas]

This year was particular challenging, Hill said, because of a lack of cattle available to cross from Mexico. 

"The old-timey steers are hard to get right now because a lot of the ranchers in Mexico have gone to putting beef bulls on their cows," Hill said. "You can get the same money for a beef calf in eight months as you can in a roping steer you’ve raised for two years. I don’t blame them."

[DID YOU KNOW? Every night, The Team Roping Journal sits down with Hill to review the draw and what each roper's steer does, presented by our partners at Fast Back Ropes.]

Because of that shortage, Hill said the horn size will be smaller overall than he's provided in the past, but the steers should be consistent in how they leave and how hard they run. 

NFR Roping Steer

The steers at the 2021 NFR will have smaller horns than in recent years. 

In Rounds 1, 4, 7 and 10, the top 15 will rope the strongest of the three sets, weighing 500 to 525 pounds. 

"They should leave pretty sharp," Hill said. "They pulled a couple off that were pretty fast. I’m going to say on the run, they’re not as strong as they’ve been in the past."

In Rounds 2, 5 and 8 they'll rope the heaviest set, averaging 550 pounds. 

"They're the bigger, framier steers," Hill said. They won't be as strong on the run."

The third pen for Rounds 3, 6 and 9 is the smallest-framed set at 475 pounds.

"They'll be fast-handling and good watching," Hill said.

This year, Hill bought many of this year's cattle from Yost Events' and Ariat World Series of Team Roping President Ty Yost.

"I sold them to him fresh," Yost said. "We probably crossed 700 to 800 for Vegas Week here in Wickenburg. We cut off the top 80 to 100 head and sent them to Bobby Joe."

Roping Steer

The NFR steers are on feed in pens behind the Thomas & Mack. 

The 2021 Bob Feist Invitational Champion Header Manny Egusquiza broke the steers in at his place in Stephenville, Texas, when they arrived this fall, and then Hill took them to X-Treme Team Roping's Jingle Bell Classic. Hill and Kaleb Driggers watched closely when they roped them in the Open and #15.5 there, sorting off 60 to bring to Vegas.

“They were good as a whole,” Driggers said. “They’re dang sure more broke in than normal and a lot easier going and easier to handle and not as fresh as past years. They have smaller horns than normal, so they’ll leave the box more true. With the big horns in the box, they can’t leave as true because they have to clear the gate with their horns. They’re not as big as the past.”

"I thought they looked good," said Mathews Land & Cattle's Chris Francis, another BFI Champion header who watched them break in steers Tuesday in the Thomas & Mack. "They're big enough and had enough runs on them that it should be an awesome roping contest. I saw one steer that didn't leave I didn't like, and one that checked off, but other than that, I thought they looked pretty good. They're big enough to take it and last the week. Those guys rope so good they can make them look good no matter what they run in front of them." TRJ

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