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Retired farmer, rancher and agricultural trailblazer Lloyd Henry DeBruycker, 87, of Dutton, who with his wife established DeBruycker Charolais, died Sept. 1, 2021, at Benefis Teton Medical Center in Choteau of natural causes.
Members of the American International Charolais Association, Lloyd and his wife Jane were honored by the industry in 2003, when they were inducted into the AICA Hall of Fame in recognition of their influence on the Charolais cattle breed and their contributions to the beef cattle industry.
“Lloyd’s impact on the breed is significant,” said David Hobbs, the director of activities for the AICA and manager of the Charolais Journal, the breed publication.
Hobbs said that DeBruycker Charolais bulls and cows are found worldwide, and the ranch’s LHD Cigar E46 bull has more than 4,000 progeny in the AICA system. “The LHD brand, in my mind, is a household name not only in the Charolais beef industry, but also in the commercial beef cattle industry across the country and North America,” Hobbs said.
Lloyd truly understood what the beef cattle industry was about and certainly put his bull customers first in wanting them to be successful, Hobbs said.
Lloyd was born on Dec. 1, 1933, in Great Falls to immigrant parents, Achiel and Rose DeBruycker, who came from Belgium and Italy, respectively, to find their fortune in the American West. They operated a small grain farm and cattle ranch in rural Teton County south of Collins and west of Dutton. Lloyd was born with a heart murmur, and his parents were told he likely would not live past age 12, but he turned out to be heartier than predicted.
Lloyd was one of four brothers who grew up on the farm, learning to coax crops out of the dryland fields, to ride horses and to raise cattle. Lloyd attended the Collins Grade School, where his teacher skipped him from sixth grade to eighth grade. He liked to say he graduated second in his class, and then would laughingly note, there were only two of them. Not fond of school, Lloyd didn’t go to Dutton High School until his sophomore year. He then graduated in 1950 as the salutatorian of his class.
His Catholic parents sent him to Carroll College in Helena at 16 years old to become a priest. He, however, had other plans, and as he told it, he went in one door and out the other. While he didn’t earn a degree, he liked to tell people that he “completed college” as a 16-year-old.
Lloyd returned to Dutton, where he worked on the farm with his father and brothers and did odd jobs, putting together machinery, working on other area farms, doing carpentry and sending out roots in the Dutton community as he and his brothers purchased farmland.
At a Dutton High School ball game, Lloyd met a pretty little Minnesota girl, Jane Clemenson, who came to school there in her sophomore year. While there were lots of boys vying for her attention, Lloyd jumped to the front of the line, and the two were married on July 2, 1954, in the Dutton Lutheran Church, starting a grand partnership that would span 67 years, seven children and the building of a nationally and internationally respected Charolais cattle operation.
They made their home initially in a small house in Dutton as Lloyd worked at local elevators and continued to farm and ranch with his brother Roger. In 1963, as drought wreaked havoc on area farms, they had the opportunity to purchase a 600-acre farm from Dave McClellan. They moved into a big house on the farm in July of 1963, and began raising grain, pigs, cattle and kids.
An agricultural innovator his whole life, Lloyd wasn’t satisfied with the Hereford cattle his dad raised. In 1958, he purchased his first Charolais bull and used it to cross-breed their commercial cows. Lloyd saw the tremendous gain in red meat production and the incredible enhancement in the quality of the beef with the Charolais bull.
In 1963 they purchased 12 registered Charolais heifers and in 1964 they added a purebred Charolais bull, Amigos Pride. DeBruycker Charolais was officially born.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Lloyd was instrumental in importing different breeds into the United States. He along with many other cattlemen at that time experimented with many different breeds such as Chiania, Maine Anjou and Simmental. During this time, though, Lloyd and Jane never strayed too far from Charolais as they could tell this was the breed for them because of the economic benefits commercial cattlemen would receive from this breed.
In 1972, Lloyd became one of seven main producers who formed a new feedlot operation north of Choteau called North Montana Feeders, giving local producers a place to finish calves and a place for DeBruycker Charolais to feed thousands of their bull customers’ calves each year. He was manager of the 8,500 head feedlot from 1979 to 2003, and while he was active, between North Montana Feeders and the other feedlots the family used, they fed close to 30,000 head of cattle each year.
Lloyd lived by the mantra of thinking big and acting decisively. In 1974, he and Jane took one of their bulls, Bamark, to the Denver Stock Show. They brought him up the elevator of the Hilton hotel for the event. The sales manager asked Lloyd, “What’s Bamark’s show record.” Lloyd (knowing the bull had never been shown before), said truthfully, “He’s undefeated.” That response got Bamark into the sale, and it turned out that Lloyd and Jane’s one-quarter interest of semen in that bull grossed more revenue at $50,000 than the rest of the entire sale.
Through the 1970s into the 2000s, Lloyd focused on building DeBruycker Charolais into a world-respected registered cattle operation. Working with his wife and their children, he sold cattle to producers from Canada to Japan and from Mexico to South Korea. In 1983, he loaded a 747 jet with 441 head of Charolais-cross calves that were flown to Korea from Holman Aviation at the Great Falls International Airport. He was one of the founding members of the Herd Improvement Test at Stanford, focusing his efforts at selecting bulls with the best breeding traits.
During this time, Lloyd developed a branded beef program called “Char-Pak,” whereby Charolais beef was packaged and sold using the Charolais name. Although no longer in operation, the program demonstrates Lloyd’s knack for promotion, innovative thinking and for driving initiatives which are now being harnessed for other agricultural products and breeds.
On April 1, 1985, Lloyd oversaw the first DeBruycker Charolais bull sale, selling 224 head of registered bulls at the ranch of his daughter and son-in-law, Cathy and Joe Campbell, north of Choteau. Today the annual auction sells 700 bulls and another 300 bulls are sold via private treaty. DeBruycker Charolais bulls can be found throughout the world.
Lloyd was one of the first, if not the first, to develop a lease bull program. The initiative enabled people to use Charolais bulls in an affordable manner which, in turn, created many new customers for the Charolais breed.
Under Lloyd and Jane’s leadership, DeBruycker Charolais has raised some of the finest Charolais bulls in the breed: Ali Mark, Mr. Perfect, Cigar, Trademark, Zen and Zeus are names which North American cattle producers know as solid breeding stock. In many gain and carcass contests and in “birth to plate” evaluations, DeBruycker Charolais animals have ranked at or near the top.
Today, the DeBruycker Charolais operation, including the home place and the ranches of Lloyd’s children, encompasses 25,000 deeded acres, some 50,000 leased acres and raises 2,200 mother cows and 1,000 bulls a year, making the family conglomeration the largest registered Charolais herd in the world.
Lloyd was known for being a great judge of cattle and horses. He said he had “the shepherd’s eye” for evaluating livestock conformity, and he was a valued judge for many 4-H and cattle shows. He was also a consummate farmer, who loved running the combine at harvest time.
While Lloyd was a dedicated cattle breeder, he had many other interests during his long and full life. He and Jane traveled to every state in the union and visited Japan, Mexico, Canada, Europe and Taiwan.
He was an avid gambler, who “was known to bet on anything, including the ‘R’ in Rolaids.” He loved playing poker, rolling the dice, betting on horses and hitting the craps tables in Las Vegas. One time, in a dice game, he won and was paid off in diamonds. He gave those diamonds away through the years so his wife, his daughters, his daughters-in-law and his granddaughters and the brides of grandsons each had diamonds to put in their wedding rings.
He loved Thoroughbred horses and greatly enjoyed going to horse races and placing his wagers. This love led him to invest in several race horses in the U.S. and Canada. In 2005, Lloyd won a $1,000,000 race in Florida with a horse that went off at 70 to one odds.
He also enjoyed bowling and was active in local leagues for many years.
He was an involved community supporter. He served on the Dutton School Board, the Teton County search and rescue, and on the boards of the Farmers Elevator and North Montana Feeders.
He was a past member of the Montana Cattlemen’s Association, Montana Stock Growers Association, United States Cattlemen’s Association, R-CALF USA and the National Cattlemen’s Association.
In 2014, when he was 80, the Montana Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association recognized Lloyd and Jane for having a ranch that has contributed to the Montana western lifestyle. At that time, Lloyd said of all their accomplishments, the proudest was that their sons and daughters still work together for the home ranch and the individual ranches that many of them now own and operate.
“I would say that [our most significant accomplishment] is that my kids have followed what we started,” Lloyd said. “We all work together and that makes me feel awfully good.”
He was known for his generosity and was always willing to help out friends and neighbors who had fallen upon tough times and to help new farmers and ranchers just getting started. He supported many causes including rodeo, Dutton High School and 4-H.
When he and Jane were raising their kids, Lloyd worked with them on ranch every day, sandwiching their school and sports events in among haying, harvesting, calving and shipping. He taught them to think big, to work hard, to never quit, not to fear failure and to set their sights high.
In his later years, he greatly enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, attending their school and sporting events and helping them learn the ropes of ranching and farming.
Like most farmers and ranchers, he loved dogs too. He had many over the years, including Charlie Brown, a terrier; Buford, a St. Bernard, and even once a Dalmatian. He kept the ranch populated with llamas, goats, bum lambs and pigs too.
Music was also one of Lloyd’s interests. His family says he had a “great country-music voice” and was always singing along with the radio or a cappella as he drove down the road in one of his red pickups. Later in his life, Lloyd wrote and played his own songs, recording seven CDs of original and cover works. His granddaughter, Cassidy DeBruycker, sings with him on one of the CDs.
While he wasn’t into school learning, Lloyd had a flair for numbers and was known for his ability to do complex mathematical calculations in his head. He never stopped learning his entire life as he was constantly looking at trends and exploring new ventures. He was interested in ethanol and biofuels in the 1970s and worked on farm-to-restaurant marketing of DeBruycker Charolais beef in the 1980s. While he didn’t have a college education, he encouraged his children and grandchildren to pursue their goals in higher education.
Lloyd lived most of his life on the farm with Jane and never really retired. As his health began a gradual decline, he stayed on the farm for as long as he could. About two years ago, however, his need for care increased to the point that he moved into long-term care at Benefis Teton Medical Center. His family is very grateful for the terrific care he received at BTMC.
Lloyd was a larger-than-life person. His love for life and his passion for always moving forward have been passed on for generations, and for that his family is eternally grateful.
Lloyd is survived by his wife, Jane of Dutton; his children, Tammy (Chris) Wend of Sparwood, British Columbia, Mark (Belva) DeBruycker of Bynum, Cathy (Joe) Campbell of Choteau, Jacque Jacobsen of Fairfield, Kelly (Bruce) Martin of Conrad, Brett (Kay) DeBruycker of Dutton and Jody Dahl of Roundup; his brothers, Roger (Myrl) DeBruycker of Floweree and Rudy DeBruycker of Nebraska; 25 grandchildren; and 20 great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his brother, Raymond DeBruycker, and his sister-in-law Janet DeBruycker; an infant son, Stephen Lloyd DeBruycker; his grandson, Jeffrey Wend; and his sister-in-law, Rosemary DeBruycker.
The Celebration of Life will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 21, at 11 a.m. outside on the lawn at the Dutton American Legion Hall with burial to follow in the Dutton Cemetery. A fellowship gathering on the Legion Hall lawn will be held after the burial. The family asks those attending adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines.
Those planning to attend from out of town can book rooms by Sept. 16 at the Stage Stop Inn in Choteau at 406-466-5900. Rooms are held under the Lloyd DeBruycker Memorial block.
Memorials are suggested to the Teton County 4-H program for beef education, P.O. Box 130, Choteau, MT 59422; the Teton County Special Olympics in care of Steve Lettengarver, P.O. Box 102, Fairfield, MT 59436; the Dutton American Legion Hall, Freeborn Post #64, P.O. Box 291, Dutton, MT 59433, or the Bethany Lutheran Church, P.O. Box 145, Dutton, MT 59433, or the donor’s choice.
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