In wake of Isaac, La. farmers faced with heavy losses, uncertainty of rebuilding

Here and Now

Cattle are stuck in mud and water pushed in from the Gulf of Mexico, along Route 23 in Hurricane Isaac-hit Plaquemines Parish, La., Aug. 31, 2012. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Reuters.)

Hurricane Isaac, which rolled through Louisiana last week as a category 1 hurricane, was no match for New Orleans' mighty new system of levees and pumps.

But outside those dirt-and-concrete walls, a mess was left behind. In Plaquemines Parish, flood waters are still high. Thousands of residents were forced to evacuate their homes.

While residents are trying to salvage what’s left of their homes and belongings, farmers are racing against time to rescue their livestock.

Khai Nguyen, the owner of the Midway Cattle Ranch in Myrtle Grove in Plaquemines Parish lost at least 400 of his 500 cattle. Now, he's in a race against time to bring food and fresh water to the few survivors.

"The water's still very high. So we're just having to inch in every day to try and feed, hay and fresh water, the animals," he said.

The cattle he lost drowned as the water rose and they had nowhere to go.

"It's really sad. I wish I could do more," he said. "I did what I could, thinking they would be OK. The storm came so fast and it stayed here forever."

Isaac lashed the Gulf Coast for three days before slowly moving northward into Arkansas and Missouri.

Typically, in rising water, Nguyen will open gates and cut fences to let the cattle swim to higher ground. But, in this case, the water rose so fast he wasn't able to get out there in time.

"We were just trying to save our lives," he said.

Nguyen has been through three floods on his farm — none before as bad as this one. He said these cattle were like his pets — many he'd raised from his birth.

"It's heart-breaking," he said.

In previous floods, Nguyen has always put the pieces back together. But in this case, it may be three strikes and he's out, Nguyen said.

"I'm thinking very hard about ... whether I have the energy to start all over again," he said.