How High Are Those Highlander Cows, Wally?

by Travis Mateer

When Montana State Veterinarian, Martin Zaluski, answered his phone early Monday morning, I’m willing to bet the LAST thing he expected was a conversation about the consequences of feeding cows cannabis, much less all the other stuff he heard from me in that pre-9am phone call.

Marty works for the Montana Department of Livestock and seemed a little confused about the kind of roadside weed Wally Congdon, the Deputy County Attorney of Mineral County, supposedly fed his cows. Was it just weed growing in the wild? No, I told Marty, it was 200 pounds of commercially grown Cannabis found in a ruptured bag on I-90 by a “good samaritan”.

Last week I had a conversation with Wally Congdon after knocking on his door in Missoula. The reason I knocked on Wally’s door was because, earlier in the week, while driving back from Helena, I noticed that Wally’s cows (visible from the interstate) were milling about on the frontage road. Being such a big proponent of public safety, I wanted to let Wally know about my concern for his cows and any motorist who might come across them in the roadway.

Wally explained to me that a gate on his property has been purposefully damaged by locals ramming it. It wasn’t clear exactly why this would be done on purpose, but youth seems to be a factor. Then, unprompted, Wally Congdon started telling me about parties thrown on his land by locals, and the pot that USED TO BE growing in the hills, which his cows would munch on.

To confirm this part of the story I drove to Clinton yesterday to look at Wally’s damaged gate. Here it is:

Nope, Wally wasn’t lying about the condition of his gate, it looks pretty messed up. So what about the cows? Is Wally lying about his cows being the final destination for the weed he supposedly took from the Mineral County Sheriff’s Office with the help of a maintenance guy who assisted Wally in loading the weed into his personal truck?

Wally is a busy guy, so the caretaking of these bovine steaks-in-waiting is the responsibility of someone else, and that someone else is Tracie McMillan.

According to this article, Tracie McMillan has been managing Wally’s herd for quite some time. From the link:

The manager of the ranch is Tracie McMillan who has been there for eight years. She has known the owner of the ranch, Wally Congdon, since 1977 when he was her debate coach at Hellgate High School in Missoula. 

As with most livestock operations, McMillan has a Battlefield PhD in her type of cattle. 

“These are smaller than Angus or Herefords so they run anywhere from 1,000 to 1,400 for bulls, and cows around 800-900 pounds. And we have every color they come in. Gray, silver white, red, brindle, orange and black.”

After taking a picture of the gate, I called the number for Big Sky Natural Beef Inc. and Tracie answered. I said my name was Travis, but that wasn’t good enough. Tracie wanted to know my last name, so I gave it to her and asked if she’d like me to spell it. “I know who you are,” she said. It was an honor to have my reputation proceed me.

I explained how Wally invited me out to see his damaged gate after telling me how much his cows like to munch weed, then I mentioned the court action that occurred on Friday. Tracie isn’t following this action, she said, and would only talk to me if Wally gave her the clearance to do so. I get it. Raising cows that look like hippies and eat accordingly must be a demanding job.

What kind of person does it take to raise Highlanders? Someone who knows how to treat people accordingly.

Am I intrigued by this Facebook post? Yes, since Yellowstone’s infamous character, Rip, is such a GET ‘ER DONE kind of guy, I’m definitely taking note. I also recall, from the show, how a meddlesome journalist is handled: she’s killed and it’s made to look like a river accident. Hmmm, for some reason that sounds familiar.

Anyway, it’s clear from scrolling through Facebook that Tracie truly cares for the cows, and I’m sure part of that is the MONEY that raising cattle for beef produces. Here’s more about the commercially consumable FOOD these cows are turned into:

This breed produces lean but well-marbled flesh that ensures tenderness and a very distinctive flavor. Highland beef is healthy and nutritious with lower levels of fat and cholesterol and a higher protein and iron content than other beef. The Scottish Highlander’s proven ability to produce top quality meat without the addition of expensive high-quality feeds makes this breed the perfect choice for those people who wish to produce beef with natural inputs. McMillan feeds around 3 each afternoon. 

“Feeding this late in the day has proven there is less chance of them calving overnight.”

If marijuana is being fed to these cows, what could happen? When it comes to milk from cow, this article from the New York Times might provide some insight. From the link:

Do cows that consume cannabis act goofy, get the munchies and spend more time lolling about with their stoned buddies?

It may sound like the beginning of a bad joke, but German researchers seeking to understand the effects of feeding dairy cows THC, the psychoactive compound found in industrial hemp, made a few intriguing discoveries, according to a study published this week in the journal Nature Food.

The German study provides both hope for growers and reasons for caution. Researchers discovered that the naturally occurring but limited levels of THC in most industrial hemp had no effect on the 10 cows in the experiment. But when they fed the animals flower buds and leaves — parts of the hemp plant that contain higher concentrations of the THC — researchers found that the cows ate less and that milk production dropped significantly.

I poked around online to see what else I could find. Could a college paper called “Pharmacokinetics of single feeding of cannabidiol in cattle” help answer the pressing question of what happens if you get your Highlander cows, you know, high? Here’s a screenshot:

If there’s work being done at college Ag programs, and if there’s New York Times articles being written, then I think the question of whether or not cows in Clinton, Montana, are consuming Cannabis before getting plated as Porterhouse steaks is an important one.

Or maybe it’s a STUPID question. Maybe a better question to be asking is this: what is the street value of 200 pounds of marijuana? 200 pounds breaks down to 3,200 ounces, and ounces generally go for $200 bucks. According to my calculator that means the weed Sheriff Funke has accused Deputy County Attorney, Wally Congdon, of taking from the Sheriff’s Office could fetch $640,000 dollars if sold by the ounce.

Who would feed money like that to cows?

There is no good explanation for what happened to that Mineral County Cannabis that puts Wally Congdon in a positive light, and I should note Congdon said NOTHING to contest these accusations made by Sheriff Funke in sworn testimony from the stand, something I would have a hard time believing if I wasn’t in that courtroom myself watching this bizarre disclosure.

The implications of what’s happening here extend much farther than the sparsely populated County, especially considering last November Wally Congdon was leading a public meeting in the controversial CSKT water compact issue.

From the link (emphasis mine):

As the deadline approaches to file objections to water rights claims set out in the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes-Montana Water Compact, some local officials are considering the effects of the landmark deal.

Mineral County Deputy Attorney Wally Congdon, for one, believes there is reason to object.

Congdon, an attorney with a history working on water rights cases, led a public meeting Thursday, Nov. 3, at the Sanders County commissioners chambers, where he advocated for individuals, and the county itself, to file objections. The meeting brought together several dozen people, as attendees lined the walls and watched from the doorway.

The compact between the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the state of Montana and the United States settled water rights claims in Western Montana. Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines in 2019 introduced the Montana Water Rights Protection Act in Congress, and a year later it was signed into law by former President Donald Trump.

What else could emerge from this Writ of Mandamus process? I don’t know, but you won’t find the context I’m bringing to this fascinating process anywhere else.

If you’d like to support my efforts, the donation button is at my about page, and Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF) is DESPERATE for some monetary attention as I wrap up the shanty-shack/meth-den clean-up today.

Thank you for reading!

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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19 Responses to How High Are Those Highlander Cows, Wally?

  1. amastrovito56 says:

    Travis – great investigative and journalism. The question I am asking – Do the citizens REALLY believe WC fed this to the cows? Or is it a smokescreen? Intentional diversion of what really happened to it. He planted the story. To you, to Sheriff Funke and now to the Courts. Does story telling sound familiar – in setting the stage to what happened? Your valuation of the weed was much higher than what I came up with. The valuation is crazy for sure. On the Water Impact issue – how does WC voting against it impact the Salish and Kootenai Tribes?

    • Ted Hartman says:

      I wish Travis had a laughing emoji we could click on.
      And to answer your water compact question in the simplest of terms – Montana Politicians sold out the citizens of this State without regard to the fact that the idiotic compact they signed potentially gives the tribes the ability to shut off the water to my house. Or start charging me to use the well I paid for and installed by another one of their over-regulated we’re from the government and we’re smarter than you regulations.
      Please. Go away. You’re biased and your opinions are tainted with hate for those who had nothing to do with your situation.

  2. Mahlon says:

    Just what does Wally do for his position? It appears he is the puppet master in Mineral county. In a cash strapped county I am surprised they have enough money for this entertainment. As for the county handy man having access to the seized property locker shocks me.

  3. Ted Hartman says:

    Well aside from the obvious fact that Mineral County seems to have a hoarding problem via keeping things in impound for far too long (cars have been in the impound lot for 6 years or more), it’s all making sense now.
    200 pounds of (alleged) pot just hanging out in the Big Building, permeating throughout the HVAC ducting, soaking into the walls and carpet, and looking more and more like it soaked into the brains of those working there (especially in the sheriffs department since that is where it was stored).
    It wasn’t the mold that was potentially causing harm. It was the (alleged) pot. I, for one, am glad this caper is over! Wally Congdon actually did us all a favor by removing the (alleged) devils lettuce from temptation, and possibly causing any further brain damage for those who work in the Big Building. Probably saved the Mineral County Taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in Billboard Attorney lawsuits for health and mind ailments and now we don’t all have to go out and get a third job to pay for it all.
    Mystery solved. Thank you Wally.

  4. May says:

    Wally did contest Funke’s classification of it being weed v hemp. There is a if difference between the 2. Funke enjoyed the moment when he kept referring the bale as weed. I watched the entire 4 plus hours of the hearing and I heard Wally say he was going to take depositions. Funke’s moment in the sun won’t last long because depositions are coming and he will have to back those statements up.

    Btw – that’s not a highland in the pic you used.

    Wally is one of the best men I have ever met. You might not like what he says but he will tell it straight and in a pragmatic way even you should be able to understand. He comes from a well respected family

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective, May. I see that whether or not someone comes from a “respected” family has weight with you. Well, it doesn’t with me. I’ve had to listen to Wally tell me all about his family land and his theory on how the Clark Fork river could keep a body submerged for months and months. And guess what? I think that’s a bunch of bullshit.

      Do you have any opinions on Wally’s ranch manager?

      • May says:

        Truthfully when I first met him, I had no idea about his background or family. I had a hard time believing the guy standing in front of me I. Jeans and sneakers was a lawyer. I literally checked with the bar association to confirm it. It’s a joke between us.

        Wally has gone to bat putting his name and reputation in the line for me more than once. With judge recht in ravalli county. Helped me find the financing for my house in polson. Mentoring my temper down because I am a quick to action person and frankly backs my advocacy work in Helena. Which shocks some people in Helena.

        Not many people would call a friend to loan someone they don’t know 95,000 and pay 3200 closing for your out of their own pocket. So I had a roof over my head.

        And expect nothing back no paperwork on the 3200 just my word to pay it back.

        The monster version of him, you and many others are making him out to be,, just don’t fit the friend that man has been to me.

        And I miss his sister Christine so very much. She passed away a yr ago last Feb in Lolo feom a car accident.

        He’s not the monster he is being labeled right now.

        Could a monster – Would a monster do what I have said? No. And that’s just the icing of how he has helped me. If there were only him and I left and 1 breath of oxygen I would gladly give it to him.

        He can be stubborn. He gets a bit hangry if he is tired and it’s dinner time. He loves his children with his entire dna.are sure his deceased wife Ann had the best medical care money could buy and sat with her til the end.

        Is that an example of a monster?

        And I would stand before Jehovah and swear on it

        Fell free to call me 406 304 6960

        • May says:

          As to u r question of ranch mgr . . . I have no opinion but I will say she hates me for whatever reason I have never discovered any actual reason . . . But it makes no difference to me or to Wally what she thinks of me . . . Wally manages HIS ranch . . . He owns the cows . . . He “allows” others to think they do but in the end he pays the taxes on the land buildings and cows.

  5. David Wright says:

    First you need to do proper investigation. Montana has “open range” laws that provide in most parts of the state a property owner must put up a fence to keep livestock out; the owner of the livestock does not have an obligation to put up a fence to keep livestock in. Think of open-range laws as requiring “fencing out.” So as long as the cows or livestock are not on the interstate or a closed range area there is nothing that can be done.

    Second where is the proof that this “weed” is truly “weed” and not hemp. You are going to believe Toth or Funk. What was the thc level?

    The folks that take care of those cows and do the best they can with what they are provid with. That ranch has come along way from days gone by. Both work hard caring for those hippie cows. And it is not for the money! The only pay either of them get is a home for their families. You obviously have never worked on a ranch or farm. Ranching is 24-7-365 day job. Don’t see you out in the hay fields cutting and baling and hauling. Nor out checking cows durning calving. Or building and repairing fence dragging and seeding fields. Nope just see you trespassing to take pictures. Can’t fault them at all for not talking to you.

    • I was invited by Wally to come out there to see the fence, so trespassing would be a bit of a stretch. But thanks for the comment, David.

      • David Wright says:

        Maybe yesterday but not when you sat in frint of the gate and did your little song. Plus if you want to know something about someone go to them face to face.

        • That was NOT on Wally’s property, it was OUTSIDE a fence on public land. Would you like to meet face to face with me, David? I think you’ll learn a lot.

  6. David Wright says:

    Outside the gate yes but still on private property. Just like yesterday unless you were stand on the pavement the property line comes up to the pavement. I would bet you didn’t tell her you were there. Did you? No because you do not tell the real story. Meet with the ranch-hands would be the best bet for you if you want the real story. Maybe they can tell you fir sure if the ”weed” was fed to the cows or not. You are just assuming it was.

  7. David Wright says:

    He does, but as the manger people normally let the person that runs the place that they are there. One it’s a safety thing and two there has been a lot of problems with people damaging the property and fences shooting cows shooting a calf just because he wanted too. Killing wildlife ect. But you are not from Montana and you seem to think whatever you do is okay. Looking at your other blogs it seems you really do not like it here so maybe you need to move on.

  8. David says:

    One last thing for you. If a person like those that live there work and rent they are the tenants. By law the landowner has to give the 24 hour notice that someone else will be on the ranch, so technically you could have trespassing charges pressed.

    Tracie has been very willing to let people come and see the cows and have pictures taken with the little coos and yes it’s coos. The other ranch hand takes folks for horse back rides and also shows the coos to people. Like I said if you want the real story talk to them face to face. Maybe your kids could feed and pet a baby calf. My family had their pictures done with babies and a very large bull. Just call and ask they even have a professional photographer come out and take pictures.

    • In one comment you’re talking about people shooting your cows, then in another you suggest I bring my kids out there? How high are YOU, David?

      I called Tracie on the phone right after documenting the fence. I’ve never met this woman, but she went out of her way to let me know that SHE KNEW ME. How is that, David? What kind of things does Wally tell Tracie?

      I’m glad you stumbled onto my little digital property, David. You should definitely stay awhile, it’s good for business.

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