PRCA Team Roping Director Kaleb Driggers and contractor Bobby Joe Hill set the pens for the 2023 National Finals Rodeo team roping steers, dividing them into three even sets by size and try.
The first set of NFR steers—that ropers will rope in Rounds 1, 4, 7 and 10—will be the strongest, Hill said. They average 498 lbs, making them the smallest of the 60 steers Hill Rodeo Cattle brought to Las Vegas. They’ll be bigger than the smallest set in 2022, with the first pen averaging 485 last year.
(Editor’s note: With the cancellation of Round 1, we are still waiting on confirmation of how the rodeo will run as of Thursday, Dec. 7, trying to determine if there will be a full 10 rounds somehow still.)
The second set will go in Rounds 2, 5 and 8, averaging 508 lbs. compared to the 525 they averaged in 2022. The third set, run in Rounds 3, 6 and 9, is the biggest at 525 this year, down from 550 lbs in 2022.
“This is the most even set, weight-wise, we’ve brought,” Bobby Joe Hill said. “They were good at Kaleb’s, and there were a handful we put four runs on because they were too stout. The third set should be fast—but the first ones are the strongest and a little smaller. So who knows. The guys are running out of chances in the eighth or ninth round, so they’re going fast anyway.”
Hill started compiling his NFR cattle in March this year, with all of them trickling in through September on semi loads via the border crossing at Santa Teresa, New Mexico, or Presidio, Texas, from the Chihuahua state in Mexico.
When Hill gets them to his place in Mexia, Texas, he sorts off his NFR potentials and starts them on alfalfa, moving them to a mix of feed from Livestock Nutrition Center. It’s a mix their nutritionist put together for Hill specifically, that the NFR steers are on from middle of August until the Finals.
“Some of them weighed 300 lbs. when I put them in there,” Hill said. “That’s a mix of corn, soy hull pellets, beet pulp, cotton seed… a long list of stuff.”
When many of the top 15 when to Driggers’ place to run them through in early November, they started with 100 head. After two days, they cut 13 out and took 87 to Xtreme Team Roping’s Jingle Bell Classic. From there, they sorted off another 13, getting the list down to 65.
“When we got out here, there were four we cut off,” Hill said. “There were two that loped and two ran left. So they’re out.”
Long before Driggers’ was the team roping event rep, he took the lead on helping break in and sort NFR steers. So in 2023, he used that know-how to try to maximize the chances of keeping the cattle good for the full NFR.
“I did make sure that none had to big of horns so that they can clear the chute easier and make sure that they don’t feel trapped,” Driggers said. “We set everyone on the left side in the run down (at the Thomas & Mack) so they hopefully want to push off to the right throughout the week. When we turned them we had the majority of people stand outside of the arena to see what did want to come left so that we could pull them off before the rodeo. Anything that wanted to come left, was level headed or wanted to fight the chute we pulled off. They have a mind of their own so we will see how it unfolds over the next 10 (or 9) days.” TRJ