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Local farmers tending homeless herds

By By LYDIA GRIMES- Features writer
More than 100 hurricane "evacuees" arrived in the Brewton area last seek, and a good many more are expected in the coming days.
They are very much like the evacuees who already have found respite in Brewton - hungry and in need of a home. The only difference is that the latest evacuees are of the four-legged variety and they're being "housed" in pastures rather than shelters.
Southern Louisiana's cattle business suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Katrina, and Hurricane Rita added to their woes. In an effort to aid the businesses, several area cattlemen are stepping in to help.
Cows that survived the storm are being trucked to a farm owned by Rodney Rhodes' and a few other farmers in Alabama where they will be cared for until the pastures in Louisiana recover.
Rhodes explained how he became involved in the rescue process.
Rhodes said that one cattleman, Earl Armstrong, had lost more than 1,500 cows in the storms. He has five small islands at the mouth of the Mississippi on which his cattle graze. He uses a barge to get to them and he took as many off the islands as possible before Katrina, but he was unable to get them all.
Southern Louisiana is a large cattle-producing area and the cows that survived were the ones who found high ground during the storm. The salt water has killed the grass and 80 percent of the cattle are gone. Those that are left are being rounded up and taken to holding pens in Baton Rouge to be sorted to try to find the owners.
The idea of rescuing some of the cattle came to the group of local farmers and a plan was set into action. The cows will be loaded into trucks and brought to Alabama and placed on farms in this area where they will remain until they have their calves. At the end of the year, the cows will be returned to Louisiana while the calves will stay here to go to feeder lots in the Midwest.
The first load of 125 cows and six bulls was delivered last week to Eric Cox, who farms in Castleberry. They will be separated from the local herd to make sure they haven't contacted anything that could be contagious.
Thanks to the efforts of a few local cattlemen, there will be a few hundred cattle that will find themselves in hay and green pastures for the next year.