High water in a number of states has forced cattle producers to take desperate measures to care and in some cases rescue livestock. Reports of flooding from South Dakota to Louisiana the past week on pasture land have shown the extent of damage that cattle raisers are dealing with during a near-record moisture year for many parts of the country.
Here is a breakdown of news stories from flooded areas during the end of May and start of June that show the lengths to which ranchers and farmers are going to care for cattle.
Oklahoma Cowboys Rescue Stranded Cattle
In northeast Oklahoma, a group of cowboys have offered up their services to help save cattle that have been surrounded by floodwaters.
“We just refuse to sit back and watch these livestock drown because I mean, all of us own cattle,” says Cory Conley.
Cattle are being hauled out of the water with horses and boats in an effort to get cattle to higher ground.
A prison farm near Taft was forced to move cattle out of flooded pasture using a tractor and hay acreage appears to be wiped out by water.
“I’ve been at Jess Dunn for 20 years and have never even [seen] anything close to this,” says Terry Fry, with the Department of Corrections Agri-Services Division.
In some cases cattle haven’t been able to be rescued. Rancher Larry Washom says the flooding is worse than what he endured in 1986 because he has lost cattle. He estimates that 28 cattle worth about $30,000 were killed by the flood.
Helicopters Deliver Hay in Arkansas
Hay was airlifted to cattle stranded along the flooded Arkansas River in Conway County, Arkansas, by Arkansas National Guard helicopters.
Below is a series of photos from the Arkansas National Guard showing the delivery effort that started on June 4:
It's a bunch of bull that we hadn't herd about starving cattle. So we steered our helos over to provide some fast food. 77th ECAB Soldiers provided hay bales to stranded cattle in Conway Co. (AR NG photos by SGT Bryan Cerrato) #ARFlood19 #BeYourBest #KnowYourMil #ArkanStrong pic.twitter.com/OjqrVicPlM— Ark National Guard (@arkansasguard) June 5, 2019
200 Cows and Calves Moved Before Louisiana Flooding
Before the Morganza Spillway gates opened and flooded nearly 350 acres of pasture, Ricky Rivet, owner of Ricky Rivet Farms near Morganza, Louisiana, moved his whole herd out of the path on May 29.
“I don’t want to do this at all, but it’s something I have to do. I mean, this is the reality. This is going to happen and I have to do it,” Rivet says. He moved about 200 head of cows and calves out of the potential flood plain.
In an effort to relieve the Mississippi River the Morganza Spillway was opened, but it is estimated that the water released will flood about 25,000 acres. Approximately 10,000 acres is farmland with the remainder being timber or pasture land.
Levee Breach in Missouri Forces Horse and Cattle Rescue
When a levee breached near Levasy, Missouri, people went out on boats to lead horses and cattle out of the water.
Here are some social media posts by Ariel Rothfield from KSHB that show the rescue effort that involved removing cattle seeking shelter on a house’s front porch:
Kansas Ranchers Dealing with Flooding
Similar to other states, cattle producers in Kansas are also having to move cattle because of a glut of rain. Jeff Dewerff, a rancher near Ellinwod, has moved his cattle several times to avoid high water.
“It’s very dangerous for the little baby calves,” Dewerff says. “This water can sweep them away.”
He’s been dealing with problems like pneumonia and grass dying off following the continued flooding.
South Dakota Rancher Uses Kayak to Check Cattle
A rancher near Freeman, South Dakota, who can’t access his cattle with a truck or ATV has resorted to using a kayak as a means to look at his cows and calves.
“We tried to go through this field over here, but that was too wet,” says Patrick Hofer. “We almost got stuck with the four-wheeler so then Laura and I had the idea. Well maybe we should take a kayak down the creek.”
This photo is from Hutchinson County on Friday. Fast forward to today... pic.twitter.com/lHFFKKAce8— Dan Santella (@KELODanS) June 3, 2019
...and the water has receded considerably. We're talking with the owner of these cows (and the pilot of that kayak) momentarily pic.twitter.com/Srfz0QDpnu— Dan Santella (@KELODanS) June 3, 2019
Managing Cattle on Flooded Pasture
Below is a video from Oklahoma State University Extension beef specialist David Lalman offering advice on how to feed and care for cattle that have been on flooded pasture:
For more on what you can do for cattle following a flood read the following articles:
- Receding Flood Waters Pose Hazards to Livestock
- Flooding Could Force Producers to Move Cattle
- First Step in Recovering Flooded Pastures and Hay Ground
- Step Two in Flood Recovery of Pastures is Renovation
- Rebuilding Fences After Flood or Blizzard Damage
- FDA Offers Resources for Assessing Flood-Related Feed Contamination
- Prepare Now for Livestock Disasters and Emergencies
- Beef Cattle Health Concerns During and After Flooding Conditions