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story.lead_photo.caption Tonya Bryant (right) of Prairie Grove and her daughter, Shai Bryant, write messages about Nebraska with shoe polish Thursday, March 21, 2019, on their pickup while seeking donations of livestock supplies and feed at Tractor Supply in Farmington before heading out to Elkhorn, Neb., to assist in flooding recovery. Bryant plans to return to collect more feed and veterinarian supplies from 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday at Tractor Supply in Farmington before driving back to Nebraska. Atwoods in Lowell has also joined in the effort. Bryant is working with No Town Left Behind and Guiding Spirit Animal Rescue Organization in her efforts and plans to make as many trips as necessary until people stop making donations. - Photo by Andy Shupe

FARMINGTON -- The photograph with the cows standing neck deep in floodwater around an island of hay got her. Or maybe it was the horse with its skin peeling from "river rot."

Tonya Bryant of Prairie Grove took action. She, her family and friends are collecting donations of food and medical supplies for livestock stranded in flooded fields in Nebraska.

When her pickup and trailer are full, she drives north seven hours to a distribution center in Elkhorn, Neb.

Bryant parked her pickup Thursday at the Tractor Supply Co. store in Farmington to collect donations. Her husband, Rusty Bryant, spent the morning at Atwoods Ranch and Home in Lowell. Her best friend, Shanny Gelso, collected in Tulsa.

The stores supported the effort by donating items and allowing the Bryants to buy the supplies at a reduced cost, Tonya Bryant said. Farmers Cooperative in Fayetteville also contributed.

Heavy rain melting packed snow has resulted in flooding across the Midwest. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts reported more than $1 billion in flood damage -- including $449 million in damage to roads, levees and other infrastructure; $440 million in crop losses; and $400 million in cattle losses, according to The Associated Press.

"We are still in rescue mode, getting to those animals so they don't die because they are starving," said Autumn Rock, a coordinator with the Omaha Rapid Response Team working in Elkhorn. News reports say the floodwater is receding.

Rock interrupted the phone call to issue orders, telling people with loads of hay where to take them in the eastern part of the state.

"Genoa or Albion," she said. "They've been without hay for a while."

Rock reported rescues of cattle, chickens, alpaca and a recent load of 20 horses from O'Neill that had been without fresh water for three days.

Rusty Bryant said the state's National Guard is dropping bales of hay from helicopters, and Rock reported delivering bales by airboat. The relief effort needs square bales because round bales are too heavy to be dropped, and the weight will bog down tractors in the mud on the way to the cattle, Rock said.

The need for hay is desperate, said Beth Ferguson, who had her own trailer loaded with hay to travel with the Bryants. A cold spring and hot summer last year reduced her own crop by about one-third, she said, and most farmers have been feeding the hay they have all winter.

Add to the mix that most calves are born this time of year and their mothers are stressed or gone, Ferguson said. Farmers will need the medical supplies and formulated food for the orphaned.

"Ranchers can't do anything for their big animals," Ferguson said. "Calves, they can put in a truck or throw into a loft to get them out of the water. But then they just drive away and watch the bigger animals left behind to drown."

Companies in Northwest Arkansas are also contributing to relief efforts.

Walmart, Sam's Club and the Walmart Foundation will provide $100,000 in support through cash and product donations, according to a company news release. Walmart and Sam's Club operate 68 stores, a distribution center and employ more than 17,000 associates in Iowa. In Nebraska, the company has 47 stores, a distribution center and more than 12,000 associates.

Tyson Foods will provide four truckloads of food -- about 160,000 pounds -- through its Meals That Matter program, said Derek Burleson, a company spokesman. The trucks will travel to distribution centers in Madison, Neb., and Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Bryant and her husband will be back at it today, collecting more donations in Farmington and Lowell before heading north.

"I'm just a nobody, but I want to help," Tonya Bryant said. "I love animals. There are not a lot of things I can do, but I can drive and make a difference. This is where I see the need."

State Desk on 03/23/2019

Print Headline: Arkansas family aids relief effort in Midwest


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