angle-left How to Care for Roping Steers

How to Care for Roping Steers

This AQHA world champion and NFR qualifier shares his tips for making roping steers last.
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By Julie Mankin with Tara Matsler for Performance Horse Journal

Whether you’re training a rope horse or preparing for competition, there are other things you can do to keep your practice cattle performing well for a longer period of time. Heeler Nick Sarchett, an AQHA world champion and 1996 National Finals Rodeo qualifier, often keeps his practice cattle for up to a year. His success is all in cattle management. Here, he shares his tips.

  • Don’t dally. Dallying wears a steer out and makes him sour. But be aware that if you never dally, steers can start “running up the rope,” which doesn’t give the heeler a corner. So now and then, dallying is OK.
  • Limit your runs. A good rule of thumb for a steer is no more than three to four trips through the chute per day.
  • Keep them in shape. You don’t want your steers to stand around for a handful of days. They can get out of shape and lazy, then they don’t want to try. If they’re never chased, they don’t perform as well.
  • Read your steers. When it gets so you’re changing your roping – or riding your horse differently – to be able to catch your practice steers, that’s a sign you need new steers.
  • Consider Corriente. The magic of buying roping steers is in purebred Corriente cattle. Corriente are bred in Mexico and imported to the United States. Nick says Corrientes are easier to break in, more predictable after you break them in and last longer.
  • Feed ’em up. One of the surest ways to get longevity out of practice cattle is by investing in good feed. Cheap hay will mean poor performance from your practice herd. It’s not the way to save money.

And just how good does Nick treat his practice steers?

“I feed my steers the same hay I feed my No. 1 horse,” says Nick. “You want your cattle to perform well, so if you feed them alfalfa, they’ll feel better and want to do their job better. You have a lot of money invested in good steers for quality practice, so treat them like you treat your good horse.”