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Hay Clearinghouse Coordinates Relief

STORY BY Carey D. Martin
FB News Staff Writer

In times of crisis and disaster, Louisiana farmers and ranchers can always count on their neighbors for help. 

Jason Anderson, left, shows Marque Angelle where in his cattle pasture he’d like the latest truckloads of hay placed. Angelle has delivered two loads to the Anderson farm near Ajax, La. in Red River Parish as part of the Louisiana Farm Bureau Hay Clearinghouse Program. Anderson himself lost several cattle during the March floods in his area, but once the floodwaters receded, offered his fields as a depot for any ranchers needing hay. Angelle has delivered three such shipments across the state at his expense, part of more than 5,000 bales donated as part of the program. Photo by Neil Melancon

As the flood waters were pouring down, the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation’s Livestock Committee launched the first Hay Clearinghouse to coordinate hay donations to those cattlemen in need. Tens of thousands of cattle were displaced because of the floodwaters, and many hay barns and ryegrass pastures were underwater as well. The floods ruined the hay and winter grazing that cattlemen depend on to feed their herds until spring grazing becomes available. 

“This is a great way for Farm Bureau, a true agricultural organization with a great network all over the state, to help find hay and get these cattlemen through a tough time,” said Marty Wooldridge, a Caddo parish cattleman who also chairs the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation’s Livestock Advisory Committee.  “Cattlemen are hurting. They’ve moved their cattle to high ground where they could.” 

 Once the call came for help, Louisiana farmers and ranchers donated more than 5,000 bales of hay and donated the trucking for several loads. One of those donors was Marque Angelle of Breaux Bridge, who donated more than 150 bales plus the trucking.  As he hauled the last of nine loads of hay to northwest Louisiana, he said the need for action was plainly obvious.

 “Help ‘em out, man, that’s what it’s all about,” Angelle said. “It’s hard to swallow sometimes when you drive up, especially when you get north of Natchitoches, seeing all the water on both sides of the interstate and some of the cows are standing in the middle of a pasture with basically about a half an acre of ground that’s dry and nothing to eat.”

Once the rain stopped, Rayburn Smith, a cattleman in Natchitoches Parish, could look out his back door to see how bad things were. 

A tractor moves hay at the farm of Jason Anderson in Ajax, La. Anderson’s cattle pasture is serving as a depot for the Louisiana Farm Bureau Hay Clearinghouse, aimed at getting hay to Louisiana cattlemen severely affected by the flooding in mid-March. More than 5,000 bales have already been donated, but moving them to where they need to go is now a problem. Anderson lost several cattle himself during the flood and this field was until recently underwater. Photo by Neil Melancon

A tractor moves hay at the farm of Jason Anderson in Ajax, La. Anderson’s cattle pasture is serving as a depot for the Louisiana Farm Bureau Hay Clearinghouse, aimed at getting hay to Louisiana cattlemen severely affected by the flooding in mid-March. More than 5,000 bales have already been donated, but moving them to where they need to go is now a problem. Anderson lost several cattle himself during the flood and this field was until recently underwater. Photo by Neil Melancon

“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 kept 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.”