Saved from the butcher
September 21, 2016
In the summer of 2013, Buster the Angus bull calf was just weeks away from being butchered when Cedaredge, Colo., rancher and pharmacist John Breitnauer first spotted him.
Buster's owner was widowed and gave away most of the animals she had. Breitnauer stopped by to help her find homes for her horses, and when he leaned over the fence to check out additional livestock, 10-month-old Buster wandered up.
Wheels started to turn in Breitnauer's head.
"I had just lost my Gelbvieh bull to brisket disease in May," he said. "Cattle prices were up, and I couldn't afford a replacement."
When Breitnauer asked what the widow's plans were for the bull, she had only two words.
"Eat him," she said.
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Breitnauer had several fattened steers he planned to take to the sale yard. He offered one in trade for Buster, and a deal was made.
Buster quickly adapted to his new situation. He was raised with lots of human contact, so he was exceptionally gentle, calm and friendly. Breitnauer said he got a kick out of petting him.
And even though still a youngster, Buster knew he had a job to do. The following year, all 17 of the Breitnauer cows calved.
None of the calves were pulled, either.
"Buster has a small head for his size which makes calving easier," Breitnauer said.
Connie Frost started to work for Breitnauer as a pharmacy technician in 1993. Frost used Buster for three of her cows. The first time was in 2015 and she borrowed Buster again this year. She kept Buster for six weeks at a time.
"He's really easygoing," Frost said.
Frost's husband, Vern, said Buster's gentle nature can sometimes be forgotten.
"He definitely likes to have his head scratched," he said. "But you have to watch him. You can't let him go pushing on you. He's still a bull and doesn't know his own strength."
Buster's success rate is 100 percent, according to Breitnauer. Once a group of cows has been bred, he's hauled off to the next one.
Moving the bull from pasture-to-pasture has never been a problem. He just settles right in.
"Once he's been penned, all you have to do is hold a bucket under his nose and he'll follow you right into the trailer," Breitnauer said.