While large cities along the Gulf Coast did not take a direct hit from Hurricane Rita, rural areas and small towns in the region are scrambling to recover from the brutal storm's aftermath. Farms and ranches in the region are particularly in need of supplies and assistance, especially in southwestern and south central Louisiana, and in eastern Texas.
According to Jason Rowntree, coordinator of adult beef extension at Louisiana State University, about 175,000 head of cattle reside in the areas of his state hardest hit by Hurricane Rita.
"We know thousands of beef cattle are stranded without hay or fresh water," Rowntree says. "These areas are in dire need of hay, range cubes, fencing supplies and portable corrals."
Rowntree adds that getting donated hay and feed to the area is a challenge due to freight costs. Any offers of trucking services are greatly appreciated.
Tommy Shields, an extension specialist from Lake Charles, La., is at the scene trying to assess damage, deliver supplies, and help round up cattle. "We've got cattle stranded on any piece of dry land they can find," Shields says. "Feed pellets are our most immediate need, not just for the cattle but also for the horses we are using to round them up. We've got people and horses working some very long days."
Shields says long-term needs include hay, fencing supplies, and portable fence panels. He says the damage is devastating, but farmers and ranchers are finding a bright side.
"The good thing is, there's been very little loss of life. We've just lost a lot of stuff," he says. "It's a big blow, especially with the eastern part (of Louisiana) still trying to recover from Katrina. But we're doing our best to deal with it."
Cash donations can be addressed to the following cattlemen's organizations:
Calcasieu Parish Cattlemenâ€™s Association
Attn: Tommy Shields
7101 Gulf Hwy.
Lake Charles, LA 70607
Vermillion Parish Cattlemenâ€™s Association
Attn: Andrew Granger
1105 West Port St.
Abbeville, LA 70510
In addition, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) continues to accept cash donations through the National Cattlemen's Foundation, and to coordinate donations of feed, supplies and trucking services. Anyone wishing to donate cash, supplies or services can contact NCBA at 1-866-BEEFUSA or go to http://www.beefusa.org/. The Texas Cattle Feeders Association has also expanded the Cattlemen's Katrina Fund, renaming it the Cattlemen's Hurricane Fund. To make a contribution, contact TCFA at (806) 358-3681 or send donations to: TCFA, 5501 Interstate 40 West, Amarillo, TX 79106. Numerous state cattlemen's associations have also established hurricane relief funds.
NCBA Chief Executive Officer Terry Stokes called on cattlemen across the nation to continue their generosity on behalf of the latest hurricane victims, and to remember that victims of Hurricane Katrina are still in great need of assistance in southeastern Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
"Neighbor helping neighbor is the cattlemen's way." Stokes says. "We've got a long road to recovery on the Gulf Coast, and it's time for all of us to step up and help in any way we can."