Cattlemen ready, but hope moving livestock will not be needed

   Cattle farmers in flood-likely areas of Avoyelles Parish are watching the rising river levels, but none have started moving their livestock to higher ground.

   However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has notified livestock owners to be ready to “head ‘em up and move ‘em out” should the Army issue evacuation orders.
   Keith Lacombe, a board member of the Red River- Atchafalaya-Bayou Boeuf Levee Board, said seven cattle producers have approximately 600 cattle on the levee system controlled by the Corps of Engineers along the Atchafalaya River in Avoyelles. 
   “Farmers are being told they don’t have to remove the cattle as of now,” Lacombe said last week. “If they have to remove the cattle, I estimate it will take about a week for the cattlemen to get them out.” Lacombe didn’t know how many cattle producers are along the Red River. He said there are more cattlemen below Avoyelles, in Melville and St. Landry Parish.
    Lacombe said the Corps of Engineers is requiring all gates on top of the levees to be opened by Monday. Cattleguards must be in place at each gate to prevent cattle from jumping over the guard.
    “The Corps of Engineers will be monitoring the levees starting Monday and need the gates open so they can drive on the levees,” Lacombe noted. “The levee district has worked hard since 2011 to upgrade all cattleguards to the standards set by the Corps of Engineers. The levee district is fighting to help the cattlemen.”
    Lacombe said a few cattleguards are still being replaced, but they will be in place by Monday.
    Police Juror Trent Clark said the cattlemen don’t want to bring the cattle to market now because of low prices. Many of the cattle were bought when prices were high and the current market price is about 60 percent of what the cattlemen paid for the livestock.
    “The producers of cattle don’t want to move if they don’t have to,” Clark said. 
    The latest projections for the Atchafalaya is for a 44.5-ft. crest on Jan. 19 -- slightly lower than the 44.9 feet in 2011.
The record was 55 feet in 1973.
    “There was a little good news that the crest on the Mississippi River was a foot lower above Natchez, but not at the Red River Landing,” Lacombe said. “However, we are still worried about the Red River and Black River. I feel there will be backwater flooding in the parish.”