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!