When the bullriders line up to compete at the Waipukurau event on Saturday as part of the CHB A&P Show, one cowboy will be more nervous than the rest.

Former champion bullrider Jonny Ward has a little extra to be concerned about this year - the bulls at the event are his.

WFL Bucking Bulls had been on New Zealand's rodeo circuit for 15 years as Parklee Bucking Bulls, in the hands of previous owners Roger and Karen Bird and son Shane Bird, but they decided it was time to move on and they put their bucking bulls and breeding stock on the market earlier this year.

The bulls' bloodlines go back 30 years. They are now the only bucking bulls in the North Island and travel from Kaitaia to Christchurch.

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Ward wasn't prepared to see generations of specialty breeding go to waste.

"It's a passion of mine. To get a good bucking bull you need to breed them. It's the same as breeding a good beef bull, you're always looking to breed the best and some of these bloodlines go back to the late Charlie Brown. I want to continue this legacy."

Ward credits wife Briar "for letting me talk her into putting the bucking bulls into our farming programme", he says. Briar will play a big part in organising the WFL Bucking Bulls going across the North Island from Martinborough up to Kaitaia over the bullriding season.

Ward says the bulls have been enjoying their new lifestyle at Pourerere.

"There's less mud here and a better view," he says. He has been working hard to get them prepared for the season.

"They get better treated than most farmed cattle. We move them more to get them fit and we handle them more. We teach them to go into the bucking chute, we get them used to a cowboy getting on and off them in the chute. The aim is to give the cowboy as good a ride as possible so we need a fit, focused and athletic bull.

"The bucking bulls all have names, they all have different personalities. We get to know them."

Once the season is underway, Ward and his team monitor them closely.

"They are athletes. We feed them supplements and look after their health and fitness."

With 40 open division bulls and 25 second division, it's no small task.

"We also have 48 breeding cows that have been put to champion bucking bulls. Reece and Debbie Whitelock of Te Aute also help with the breeding programme and run 25 cows with us buying all the bull calves off them.

"I can't take credit for the breeding - the Bird family has done a great job and it can only get better. I am looking to bring some overseas genetics on board, give the breeding programme a new lease on life."

Ward's aim is to grow big, strong bulls capable of going through to the open division as 3-year-olds.

"We try them out in the second division as 2-year-olds and anything decent will be kept to grow and if they fulfil their potential they can go open at 3 years old. If they still have growing to do they will go open as 4-year-olds.

"They have to be a reasonable size. Then they can stay in the open division for the rest of their career if they continue to perform well. I have 11 and 12-year-old bulls still bucking and I got my highest ever score on a 14 year old."

While division 2 at the Waipukurau bull riding event usually uses bulls from local farms, the threat of mycoplasma bovis has kept them at home, so WFL Bucking Bulls will be providing the division 2 bulls this year.

"Some of the local cowboys are going to get a surprise," says Ward.

CHB A&P Show, Waipukurau A&P Showgrounds, Saturday from 8am.
CHB Bullride, Waipukurau A&P Showgrounds, Saturday 5.30pm.