In August, ranchlands spreading across the boot of Louisiana were dotted with hundreds of cows and calves grazing on a smorgasbord of marsh grasses.
But Hurricane Isaac took all that away, turning some of the best grazing land in Louisiana's low country into miles of brackish and foul-smelling floodwaters. A lot of the livestock raised there by a handful of ranching families drowned in Isaac's storm surge along with other wildlife. The storm overwhelmed weak levees protecting farm country south of New Orleans.
South Louisiana's cattle industry consists mostly of pockets of ranchers along the coast, including Plaquemines Parish. But at least 400 cattle perished in Isaac, and ranchers in the Mississippi River Delta now are pondering whether they can continue a tradition that's more than 200 years old.