Tending Happy Cows

“I love my cows dearly,” Amanda says, breaking into a laugh. It’s infectious, her passion palpable. “They bring so much happiness to me. They’re not just livestock; they’re also part of our family.”

Sep 26, 2022

By Jessianne Castle

Amanda Weaver’s happy place is watching her cows. A devoted rancher, Amanda and her husband, Casey Weaver, operate CM Livestock in Drummond, Montana, in the west-central part of the state, not far from the banks of the Clark Fork River and beneath the peaks of the Garnet Mountain range where snow lingers on the highest peaks well into the summer.

“I love my cows dearly,” Amanda says, breaking into a laugh. It’s infectious, her passion palpable. “They bring so much happiness to me. They’re not just livestock; they’re also part of our family.”

The Weavers have 60 mother cows that spend their lives munching grasses and forbs that are watered by snowmelt and Rocky Mountain rain. They are pastured on land the Weavers lease, and the cows are able to live there year-round, producing calves in a healthy, low-stress environment.

“I’m proud when I see all of those cows and calves out on the pasture,” Amanda says. “I see all of our hard work — feeding hay in the winter and calving in the spring — and it’s paying off. They’re happy, they’re content, they’re healthy. Calves are eating grass and you can almost watch them grow.”

The Weavers take an intentional approach to their management of the ranch, one that prioritizes the health and welfare of the cows. The operation is Certified Humane, which means the Weavers adhere to a series of standards that include giving their cattle access to large pastures, ensuring low-pain castration and providing quality feed without added hormones, antibiotics or drugs. This certification is overseen by Humane Farm Animal Care, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals by increasing consumer awareness. Through the program, beef, chicken, pork, eggs and other products are guaranteed to come from animals that have not lived in cages, crates or tie stalls.

“If they’re in a low-stress environment and they’re well taken care of, they’re happier cows,” Amanda says. “It’s just taking care of your cattle.”

For CM Livestock, taking care of the herd includes feeding hay to the cows every day in the winter, providing access to water in prolonged subzero temperatures or summer’s sweltering heat, sorting and moving cows horseback and delivering whatever care is necessary — day or night — when a mother cow gives birth to a calf.

“We have to endure every day to provide and take care of them,” Amanda says, adding that Montana’s climate is largely unpredictable. “Whether it’s a blizzard, or wind chill that’s 40 below zero, you have to endure. Mother Nature, she can be a tough one because we have no control over her.”

As a profession that doesn’t follow business hours or schedules, ranching is a lifestyle that involves the entire household. Casey and Amanda are the parents of eight-year-old twin boys who already take an active role on the ranch, learning valuable lessons about responsibility along the way.

“They get to be outside, interacting with all of the animals, understanding and learning what work is all about,” Amanda says. “We try to provide an environment where they’re learning but still have fun.”

“It’s a great way to raise a family,” she adds. “Ranching is a way of life. It’s very hard work, but if you love it, there are so many benefits you reap. It’s a wonderful family life, it’s a wonderful way to provide for our kids.”

A fourth-generation ranching family, the Weavers are committed to a ranching way of life that values healthy cattle and quality beef, all made possible through hard work — and countless back scratches and forehead rubs.

“I love on the cows,” Amanda says with a laugh, adding that the animals’ friendliness is one indicator of their success. Amanda watches her cows, and she knows they are content.