‘It’s been hell’: Farmer hurt by weeks of Red River flooding

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The Red River between Bossier City and Shreveport. (photo by Tom Pace)

Bossier Parish farmers are coping with cattle evacuations and flooded farmland as high water from the Red River flooding hangs around.

In fact, Bossier Parish Sheriff Julian Whittington said people have moved about 2,000 head of cattle to higher ground since the flooding began.

Henry Maness is one of these local farmers who has dealt with having his livelihood threatened by an unprecedented flood.

“It has been hell for the last two weeks,” said an exasperated Maness. “As the water was rising, it was hard getting the cattle pushed out. It’s been a constant thing every day.”

He herds cattle and grows hay on the Curtis Plantation in south Bossier and some land that surrounds I-220 in north Bossier.

He explained that out of 2,400-3,000 acres he only has 400 acres of pasture available. He’s moved most of his 600 head of cattle, except for 20 that unaccounted for.

“They’re still likely to be there in a high corner somewhere or they could have gone down river,” he said.

He has spent many man hours constantly checking on his cattle and keeping them above water.

“The hardest part has just been staying in front of it,” said Maness. “When I heard it was going (to rise to 34 feet) that was a bad problem. We built a dyke for that (level) but then we got 37 feet (of water). It’s been hard to constantly stay ahead of it.”

“You can’t graze. It’s virtually impossible and the grass isn’t going to come back for a while. I’m going to have to do a lot of hand feeding.”

His hay crops are also suffering, noting that out of 600 acres of hay, “it’s gone. It’s all under water.”

He noted there was likely to be a hay shortage anyway because of the rainy spring, but said with the flooding that half of his fields are gone.

“It’s going to be tough to survive,” Maness said very plainly.

He said the flooding has definitely hurt his wallet and that when all is said and done from this 70-year event, that it “will be like starting over.”

“I toured (the land) in a boat and it’s so eerie. There was pasture land that is water and six feet tall pens that are totally under water,”  he said. “I have uprooted trees on my property. The grass is dead and won’t come back for a while. Mosquitos are going to be terrible when it gets to pooling stage.”

He hopes to keep his cattle on his land and is optimistic that once waters recede enough he can grow enough grass and rotate the heads enough to keep the herd fed. But he recognizes that he may be forced to sell his livestock.

“Any time you have to sell anything, you always take a beating on it. And hopefully I can make it long enough where I don’t get pushed into having to sell.”

Still, despite the dire situation Maness is in and the long haul to get back to where he was before the Red River swallowed up his property, he said all is not lost.

“It could be worse. A lot of people have it worse than me.”