Louisiana cattle pastures, already water-logged from record-setting rain in mid-March, are seeing the downpours continue into April even as some cattle are still stranded from the first floods.
Thousands of cattle were moved to higher ground to escape the flood waters, but many are still stranded on small islands of high ground and levees. Even where pastures have dried out or drained, the flood waters have killed existing grass and new grass growth is a month or more away.
The Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation set up a Hay Clearinghouse two weeks ago to gather hay donations for those cattlemen in need. Farmers and ranchers across Louisiana issued a massive response, pledging over 5,000 bales of hay for the donation program.
According to Carey Martin, coordinator of the Farm Bureau’s Hay Clearinghouse, the problem now is getting hay transported to those in need.
“There are thousands of bales of hay in south Louisiana we need to get trucked to the northwest corner of the state,” Martin said. “Farmers have been very generous with their hay donations. Now we need trucking donations.”
Rayburn Smith, a cattleman in Natchitoches Parish, can look out his back door to see how bad things remain.
“I’ve got one neighbor right down the road here who has 600 cows and they are on a little island,” Smith said. “There’s nothing for them to eat and the ground is covered with water, so he will need hay for 30 days minimum. He’ll be out of business without some support.”
In nearby Red River Parish, Jason Anderson has been stockpiling hay for farming neighbors in need. The bayou behind his fields has receded, taking with it a few cattle Anderson isn’t sure he’ll ever see again. His focus now is on making sure more cows aren’t lost in the wake of the flood.
“We didn’t think the rains would be as bad as they were, but when it just keep falling, we knew we were in trouble,” Anderson said. “We have neighbors on lower ground that are much worse off. All the hay donations have been a blessing, but now we have to get them to those in need.”
Martin said anyone with a truck and trailer can help haul hay.
“Just hauling one load of hay from Lafayette to Natchitoches would be a huge help,” Martin said. “The cattlemen in that area are still hurting and they have a desperate need.”
If you would like to volunteer to haul a load of hay to the affected area, log onto VoiceofLouisianaAgriculture.org and click the Hay Clearinghouse link to sign up. You can also contact Martin at 318-471-2114.