Bucking bulls bring bovine energy to SW Virginia’s New River Valley Fair
DUBLIN, Va. — Sometimes it just takes a lot of bull to get the show on the road.
This was true here June 27, the last day of the New River Valley Fair. Trailers loaded with bulls destined for the fair’s bull riding contest, rolled into the fairground after hours on the road. They came from Liberty, S.C.
Their arrival promised the bull riding contest would be filled with excitement. Ernie and Caty Treadway, owners of Ernie Treadway Rodeo, were working to make the event happen later in the day.
The Treadways supply bucking bulls for bull rides through the eastern United States and sometimes beyond.
While the Treadways were working and talking, the big animals were resting in pens at the end of the show ring.
Treadway said they have about 75 bulls, including futurity bulls. Some of his bulls are sold for Professional Bull Riding and will end up on television in national events.
Their bulls win in a lot of their competitions. One winner, Chicken on a Chain, was a PBR Champion Bucking Bull a few years back, he said.
Ernie said he purchased that bull as a two-year-old and while he does buy some bulls, it is not the norm for his operation.
Most of the bulls in his rodeo are the progeny of animals on his farm, both bulls and cows.
Ernie said most of the bulls he sends to riding events are second or third generation animals. The second or third generations seem to be better at bucking than first generation animals, he added.
The Treadway bulls come from several different bloodlines, with all being Brahma crosses.
Asked about record keeping, Treadway didn’t talk about the usual measures of cattle performance and growth such as rate of gain or even body condition. He keeps records of the number of contests the bull has bucked in.
He said he uses the data to manage the bulls’ activity and keep them healthy.
Raising bulls for riding events is like other cattle in many ways, he continued. He aims for most of his cows to calf early in the year. This allows them to take advantage of the early South Carolina pasture growth.
His bulls eat a high protein and are fed twice a day every day. He put up 1,000 round bales of hay last year.
“We start fooling with them when they are yearlings,” Ernie said.
In training, he said they use an electronic dummy on the youngsters to let them get the feel of a weight on their back. A remote control dismounts the dummy after a few seconds.
“We see if they have any buck in them,” he continued. “It’s a surprise how little bulls develop into bucking bulls.”
This doesn’t always happen, however.
“Some just don’t buck,’ he said. “You can’t make them.”
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