The parish is not even number two.
Based on the 2010 numbers, Vermilion Parish is ranked third with 26,090 head of cattle.
The top producing beef parish is now Calcasieu, which is north of Lake Charles. That parish has 39,750 head.
The second most producing beef parish is in the northern part of the state in Natchitoches Parish with 30,000 head.
Caddo Parish, located at the top left part of the state has 24,000 head of cattle to make it the fourth largest.
It is not hard to figure out when Vermilion Parish was knocked off the thrown of being the top beef parish in Louisiana. The year was 2005 and reason was because of Hurricane Rita.
When Hurricane Rita brought a storm surge that flooded many cattle grazing fields south of Abbeville, Kaplan and Erath. It also drowned thousands of head of cattle. When a farmer loses one cow, the farmer has lost a money maker. It is estimated that 5,000 head of cattle drowned for Hurricane Rita. Another 5,000 head were sold within a month because of the loss of fences, grazing and hay.
Because of cost of replacing the cattle, many parish farmers did not purchase new cattle to build back up their herds. It is evident by the number of cattle farmers in the parish. Vermilion leads the state with 643 cattle farmers; that averages out to 40 head of cattle per farmer in the parish.
In Calcasieu Parish, there are 400 farmers for 39,750 head of cattle; it figures out to 99 head of cattle per farmer.
James LeLeux Sr., a cattle farmer from Abbeville, who is also the District 8 Vice President for the Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association, spoke to the Abbeville Rotarians about the cattle industry.
“It is a tough business to make money in,” said LeLeux Sr. “The profit margin is so low.”
Another reason for the decline of cattle in the parish is because the land where cattle once grazed is back to being marshland south of Abbeville.
The good news for the cattle industry is that the prices for meat are high, but as the same time, so is the cost of feed, fertilizers and other expenses limiting profit.
Although the price of beef is high, it is not what it once was, LeLeux added. With the drought taking place in Texas, cattlemen are selling their stock, flooding the market with beef. The more beef there is on the market, the cheaper the price.
LeLeux said the cattle industry can survive in the parish and possibly grow if cattle farmers want to get “innovated” with cattle farming.
“A lot of people in South Louisiana, and Vermilion Parish tend to want to do it the same way,” he said. “They say, ‘I just want to be a cow-calf producer and want to sell my calves.’ They love to sell them to the stockyards. The stockyards are a vital part of our industry. If you want to make high dollars, a farmer needs to look at the other phases of cattle farming to try and get better pieces of the market.”