PLAQUEMINES, La. - A week and a half after Isaac hit, cowboys in Plaquemines Parish are still working to save cattle left stranded by flood water and debris near a long stretch of Highway 23.
"There's still a lot that didn't make it but whatever we can find that's trapped in little areas. We're going with air boats and horses and trying to get the other ones that are still alive," said Charmion Cosse, a third generation cattle farmer in Plaquemines Parish who owns about 300 head of cattle.
Cosse said, unlike Hurricane Katrina, the biggest challenge in saving cattle this time isn't the flooding. The storm surge from the Gulf of Mexico also brought in marsh grass and debris, trapping thousands of cattle.
Now, cattle farmers in the area are trying to salvage their livelihood.
"The future's not looking too good at this point. You know, we make money off the calves. We don't even know at this point how many of those survived," said Cosse.
Down the highway, parish President Billy Nungesser's front yard has become a makeshift paddock. Cattle farmers like Earl Armstrong, Jr. are bringing rescued cows here to load them onto trailers.
"It is our livelihood. All these fellows around here, own cattle or fool with cattle all their life. You don't see too many people here that don't do this," said Armstrong.
Rescuing the cattle is an effort mostly led by private, local farmers in the area, with support from the parish and the state.
"It's been a 24/7," said Nungesser. "Ever since we finished rescuing people, we've been rescuing animals."
Nungesser said the parish contributed a backhoe and marsh buggies to the efforts.
Meanwhile, the stench of dead cattle in the area is overwhelming. And Cosse knows, with days of sitting in and drinking contaminated water, there's no guarantee the cows that are rescued will survive.
Nungesser said a contractor will begin removing dead cows Sunday morning.
Officials said the area is home to 3,000 to 4,000 cows. No word yet on how many survived.