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Amy Kirk

AMY KIRK: Catching yearlings needs audibles and ‘winging it’

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opinion Mitchell,South Dakota 57301
The Daily Republic
AMY KIRK: Catching yearlings needs audibles and ‘winging it’
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Handling yearlings consists mostly of a using a technique known as “winging it,” which is essentially carrying out a series of audibles. The problem I have with my Hubs calling an audible is that he calls his audibles inside his head where nobody else can hear them.


For those of you who may be like I used to be and didn’t know what the heck an “audible” was, it’s a term for calling a new tactic that’s usually a series of codes hollered among men. Audibles are normally affiliated with football, but they occur around here all the time.

The only difference between the football version and the rancher version is that most of my husband’s audibles are carried out with hand gestures unless he and I are dealing with our yearlings. With yearlings, plans fail so fast that there’s not enough time for him to confuse me with a hand gesture that I can decode quickly, so he’ll just run around while I stand there asking myself out loud, “What is he doing?”

Our last wreck happened over Memorial Day weekend — the weekend when lots of people visit the freshly groomed cemetery to pay respects to deceased loved ones. We got a call about a yearling being out and when we found her, she was lollygagging in the cemetery that borders our yearling pasture.

I was lined out to hide behind a tree unless she came my way, and then try to turn her back toward the fence. Since yearlings don’t cotton to easy plans, she didn’t feel like jumping back through the low fence she’d found, so I had to come out of hiding and turn her back, but loping back and forth through the cemetery was more her style.

Let me just clear up your burning curiosity and say that there is no way to delicately chase and cut off a yearling on a high lope around headstones. Cow and I tangoed briefly before I got slowed down by too many headstones and she got by. More running, shin-meets-headstone dodging, and zigzagging ensued before my husband felt compelled to finally share an audible with me: “STOP!” (Yay!)

Apparently his next audible was encouraging the yearling to exit through the cemetery gates.

After accomplishing phase one of dealing with a yearling that got out, the next audible was husband-and-jeep gunning it in high gear through the ditch to turn the cow toward the nearest opening leading back home — the dirt-filled autogate with cable stretched across. I took the initiative to lag behind on foot in case she got by the jeep. Right at the gate, the renters’ barking dogs nearly caused the next failed audible. The displeasure followed by a scolding to get the dogs back inside was quite audible — for half a mile away at least, but the cow went in.

For most ranchers, cursing is the go-to reaction when plan A fails to get a cow back in. The general rule is to try to work with them to get them in, but the minute a cow figures out she can outrun man or woman, every attempt gets harder and each plan change goes unannounced. It’s when things go awry and I can hear a slew of bad words over a failed plan that I wish he would be inaudible.

— Amy Kirk and her husband raise their two kids on a fourth-generation cow/ calf operation near Pringle. She blogs at