Cattle owners had to rely on horses, boats and even a helicopter to round up their herds as floodwaters covered pastures in many areas of south Louisiana.
Kenny Higginbotham, of Broussard, said Lafayette Parish county agent Stan Dutile and stockyard owner Mike Dominique marshaled cowboys from Opelousas and boat owners from St. Mary Parish to round up his 40 head of Braford cows out of 4 feet of water.
"I can't say enough about these guys who coordinated this," Higginbotham said.
The cows were stranded in pasture near St. Martinville. One group had to be coaxed out of a thicket with a helicopter, Higginbotham said, and some calves had to be pulled from the water.
The herd was moved along a road next to a subdivision, he said.
It was obvious the cattle were stressed. "They were very weak. They couldn't have survived if we hadn't brought them out," Higginbotham said.
Some of the herd had become sick, he said, and the younger ones were vaccinated and given vitamin B‚Äë12 shots.
"We got them to high ground in Broussard," he said.
The rescue was carried out Aug. 18 when the water was still rising. "The next day, the water continued to go up," Higginbotham said.
Dutile said he helped bring out four herds, but five herds were left in place. "We decided not to bring them out because they have strips of high ground. We're still trying to get hay and feed to those cattle," he said.
Cattle owner Karl Girouard, of Lafayette Parish, said 25 of his cows had to be rescued from high water. Ten riders on horseback and an airboat were used to round up the herd to be loaded on a trailer. Sometimes, horses and cattle had to swim through deeper water.
Hundreds of acres of the Girouard Ranch remain underwater, and 125 round bales of hay were lost to flooding, Girouard said.
The LSU AgCenter estimates the loss of pasture resources for livestock in Louisiana will cost farmers nearly $2 million.
Flooded pastureland is jeopardized. Once the floodwaters recede, it's difficult to tell whether grass will return, said Vince Deshotel, St. Landry Parish county agent and AgCenter regional beef specialist.
"It just depends on how much of the plant dies," he said. "We don't know how much damage there will be until the water is gone."
Hay that was flooded will deteriorate and rot, Deshotel said.
Many fields of grass are ready to cut for hay, but most fields are too wet to cut now, and more rain is expected. As the days get shorter, the grass for hay will have less nutritional value, Deshotel said.