A calf-pushing-job isn’t for the faint of heart.
There’s a lot at stake, and the job has its hazards, too—from a sore back from crouching behind an animal in a steel pusher’s chute to the manure-covered hand, pants, shirt or worse.
And there’s absolutely a right and wrong way to do it, according to Barry Berg, general manager of Cactus Ropes and industry-renowned master pusher. Berg, a Texas header who just this year won the #11.5 Wrangler National Patriot with California’s Dustin Noblitt, spends the entire day of BFI Week’s All-Girl Challenge pushing calves for every girl who wants his help. To Berg, it’s an art form he’s as passionate for as he is good at.
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“You can actually push a calf perfectly,” Berg said. “I love it. I love being down there in the chutes and boxes and I love helping all the ladies. It’s just a blast to watch them throughout the whole roping, and you can see the momentum growing toward the short round. It’s so exciting to be a part of something for all of the girls who work so hard.”
[LISTEN: Barry Berg on The Score]
[READ: The Rope Makers]
Barry Berg’s Rules of Calf Pushing
1. Work with the person on the head.
“The pusher and the head guy need to be in correlation. They’ve got to be paying attention to one another and working as a team—not just each person pushing the calf around without minding what the other’s doing.”
2. Don’t fight.
“A calf that wants to lay down can be the best calf if you can get a good go at it. You’ve got to just give it a chance to get up without getting aggressive.”
3. Get the calf on its toes.
“You’ve got to get the calf on its toes to get a true go. I put my left hand on the side of the calf’s hip, and my right hand is on the tail, just rocking the calf to its toes at all times.”
4. When the calf is on its toes, don’t let anyone touch his head.
“This is why you’ve got to be in sync with the man at the head. Once I get the calf on his toes, I say, ‘I got him, don’t touch him!’ “
5. Watch the head.
“I’m never watching the roper. I’m watching the guy on the head. Especially at a jackpot like the Lazy E, you need to see the move true with the gate.”
6. Go with the bang.
“When the gate bangs, that’s when you push to keep its forward momentum from its toes. Remember, if you let it rock to its heels at the last minute, that’s a broken barrier.”
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