Mentzer's Used Cow Lot serves generations of ranchers

    Drummond is called the 'Bullshipper Capitol of Montana.' The livestock yards at the railroad showcase the small town's historic ties to ranching. Years ago ranchers used to ship their animals on rail cars. Today trucks do the job.

    Fall is a busy season for Montana cattle producers.

    Calves are bought, sold and shipped to other parts of the country, mostly to the Midwest.

    In this week's 'Montana Moment' we take you to Drummond, where Mentzer's Used Cow Lot has been serving area ranchers for generations.

    Drive through this small town off Interstate 90 and you can't miss the cow lot off Main Street at the rail yards.

    It's a landmark that showcases Drummond's historic ties to ranching.

    "Agriculture is the number one industry here in Drummond," said rancher and cattle buyer Casey Weaver.

    "Drummond is the biggest bullshipper in Montana," said Casey's dad Dutch Weaver. " But," he laughed. "You want to be careful how you spell that."

    The Weavers and several other Drummond folks were busy shipping calves from Mentzer's Used Cow Lot on a rainy fall day.

    The sound of cattle could be heard throughout the town.

    At the Wagon Wheel Cafe ranchers had stopped by for lunch.

    It was as busy as the cow lot.

    Rhett Rigby operates the yards.

    He weighed every calf that came through.

    "I'm also the local brand inspector," he said. "So I inspect all these cattle."

    Rhett directed truck drivers as they backed up their livestock trucks to the chute.

    Truckers had come from all over to pick up area calves for transport.

    " I'm from Cokeville, Wyoming," said a trucker named Tim. " I've been up here since 10 o'clock last night waiting to load to haul cattle to Minnesota."

    "I'm assuming they will go to a feedlot down there," said Rhett. "And they'll finish them out."

    These days cattle are trucked to buyer's destinations.

    But in Drummond they used to be loaded onto rail cars.

    "You talk to these guys that used to load onto railroad cars here," said Casey," and they came from Philipsburg, Helmville, Ovando and all over the country."

    Dutch Weaver remembers 50-some years ago when they shipped lambs out of here from the Helmville area.

    They trailed them about 15 miles, he said.

    " We trailed them," he said. " We came down from Edwards Gulch and weaned the lambs and took the ewes back."

    As cowboys and cowgirls sorted bawling steers and heifers, Dutch said the yards used to look and sound like this all the time.

    " In the fall of the year," he said," it was like this every day."

    Today, the yards don't take nearly the numbers of cattle through that they used to.

    "It's not so important anymore because a lot of people have their own scales," said Dutch. " But it used to be damned important because everything went on the railroad."

    But Mentzer's Used Cow Lot still gets used.

    It's handy for any livestock producer who needs to get their animal weighed, and remains a convenient shipping point.

    "It's still a viable part of the community," said Casey. " That's for sure."

    Drummond is cattle country, a kind of central hub for ranchers in all directions, and a straight shot to Interstate 90.

    "They're able to swing in and swing out," said Rhett of the truckers, "and be on their way."

    Casey Weaver had bought this group of calves and found buyers who will finish them out in the Midwest.

    " It's a big day of shipping calves," he said. " A big day for the farmer and rancher. It's his one paycheck for the whole year."

    "Come on pretty girl," said Rhett Rigby," as he moved a heifer up the chute.

    At 650 to 700 pounds, he said these animals looked good and healthy.

    Handsome exports from the Bullshipper Capitol of Montana.

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