As we enter springtime, the beautiful and diverse ecosystem across the marshes and wetlands of
Louisiana start to flourish. With warmer weather, members of the community and across the country begin to flock to the shoreline and swamps, all seeking an adventure across Louisiana’s vast 530,000,000 acres. For many, springtime marks the beginning of recreational outdoor activities like boating, fishing, and gardening. For Benny Cenac Jr., Spring marks the commencement of his favorite activity: caring for the animals on his Houma Golden Ranch Farms.
For Cenac, Houma-area philanthropist and owner of Cenac Marine Services and Golden Ranch Farms — Louisiana’s largest privately owned animal refuge — spring marks the beginning of round the clock care for the many animals that flock to his farm during these few months. From pregnant white-tailed does and green-winged teal, to the singing of migrating ducks who rest on the branches of his willow oaks trees when traveling the Mississippi Flyaway migratory tunnel, Golden Ranch Farm is transformed into a captivating place as the sun inches north across the celestial equator.
Since his schoolboy days in Houma, Benny Cenac vividly recalls and looks forward to each springtime in his community. The pollen settled across every surface, the swamps and forests reveal their exceptional flora and fauna, and the arrival of crawfish season signals the commencement of a hectic, yet momentous time for the Cenac family and his employees.
Benny Cenac’s Houma Golden Ranch
For nearly 200 years, since purchased from the Ouacha and Chaouache Indians in 1744, the ranch has played a critical role in the community, including the production of sugar cane that was introduced on the property in 1883 and persists today. The sugar cane is then shipped to a local factory for processing to further bolster a strong local economy—maintaining Cenac’s commitment to his community first.
After leasing the property in 1984, Cenac sought to preserve the culture of the land while also providing refuge to the assorted animals that call Louisiana home each spring. Cenac has doubled down on his conservation efforts to safeguard the farm and plantation’s rich history, continuing to protect the 52,000 acres of freshwater marsh, sugar cane fields, a medley of tree species, and an array of flourishing wildlife.
Benny Cenac has expanded his conservation efforts to include blackbuck antelope, oryx, Père David’s deer, axis, elk, and sika who all call the land home. The deer find peace on the Golden Ranch Whitetail property, nestled in between New Orleans and Houma, and situated on the Golden Ranch Plantation. Since 2014, as does begin to birth their fawns, signaling the start of round-the-clock care for these fragile animals, Cenac ensures that a round-the-clock team is there to tend to the intensive care of these animals. Each doe on the property will birth between one and two fawns from May to July, resulting in hundreds of bottle-feeding sessions for the newborns.
Cenac is deeply thankful to those who help him care for the animals, especially his devoted ranch crew, who work with the deer around the clock. In addition to his ranch crew, Golden Ranch Farms also provides internship opportunities for high school and college students interested in veterinary medicine, conservation efforts, farming or simply the company of the adorable animals across the property. Interns are provided the opportunity to learn about the business of conservation and are fortunate to work hands-on with the animals on the property, from bottle-feeding to providing general care.
In addition to deer, the ranch is also home to one of the largest alligator farms in the country, and one of the only captive breeding operations intent on sustaining and preserving a healthy balance of gators. This includes an alligator breeding program where eggs are collected and incubated until they hatch, with many being released back into the wild to maintain a healthy and diverse population. The American alligator was only recently taken off the endangered species list, and Cenac believes that protecting these animals before they are at risk will ensure future generations are able to enjoy these species for centuries to come.
Come each spring, Cenac looks forward to another year on the ranch, caring for the scores of animals who call the Golden Ranch home. As more and more animals come to the lands each year, including America’s favorite bald eagle, Cenac feels blessed to be joined by his dedicated team and family to play witness to the amazing species that inhabit his refuge.