Story by Carey Martin
Heavy downpours and unprecedented flooding across north Louisiana have farmers and ranchers dealing with a familiar foe – the consequences of Mother Nature.
“We’ve got water in places we’ve never seen it,” Dustin Morris, a Richland Parish farmer said.
Morris said corn planting was well underway across north Louisiana, and it appears that all of that corn seed and the diesel fuel used to plant it is now wasted. “We’re going to be over 20 inches of rain quickly,” Morris said. “So, we’re probably going to get a re-do on everything we’ve planted so far.”
Morris said he feels lucky because he was being cautious and didn’t plant as much ground as he probably could have. “There were some people who hit it wide open and planted a lot,” he said.
In northwest Louisiana, Marty Wooldridge is nervous about the rising water on his Caddo Parish cattle operation north of Shreveport. He said thousands of acres are under water. “I’ve never seen this much country under water up here,” Wooldridge said. “I’ve heard my neighbors who are in their seventies tell me they’ve never seen it like this,” said Wooldridge.
Wooldridge said he is wondering if the bayous running through his ranch are going to back up and flood his pastures. If so, the floodwaters could strand cattle away from hay and feed and possibly drown cows or newly-born calves.
“I haven’t had to move any cattle yet, but I think it’s going to happen,” Wooldridge said. “I’ve got a beautiful set of four-year-olds and they are calving. Two of them were in labor when I left the pasture just now. I’m nervous about moving them when they are so close to calving or have brand new calves, but we will do it if we have to.”
According to Dr. Mike Strain, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, his department’s Brand Commission is coordinating efforts with local law enforcement agencies and offices of emergency preparedness to help facilitate moving livestock out of harm’s way as severe weather threatens the state.
“So far, we’ve helped coordinate penning and moving approximately 100 cows and calves to higher ground in Bossier Parish,” Strain said. “We’ve also helped coordinate the rescue of four horses out of flood water and to a safer area in Haughton. As a constant reminder, it is a good idea to maintain the condition of livestock trailers and other equipment used to move large animals out of harm’s way for situations such as this.”
In central Louisiana, Ryan Yerby is watching his corn fields in Grant Parish go underwater. “Of the 600 acres we have planted, about 100 of it is underwater so far,” he said. Like Morris, Yerby stopped planting several days ago, when he heard reports of possible flooding in the forecast.
Unfortunately, the flooding is familiar for Yerby’s land. When the Red River reached flood stage last spring, the bayous that run through his farm backed up, flooding several hundred acres of newly emerged corn and soybeans as well as his wheat ready to harvest. Yerby said the real question is not how much the rain will flood his fields, but what will happen when the rain stops and all of the water north of him drains across his farm on its way to the Red.
“That backwater is going to get us again,” Yerby said. “Once the lakes start draining, it’s going to drain right back through us. It’s going to spread out before it has a chance to drain into the river.”
Yerby said forecasts call for the Red River to rise another five-to-seven feet, which will make it that much harder for the water to drain off of his farm. “It wasn’t the rain that got us last year,” he said. “It was us catching everyone else’s water after the rain had stopped.”