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AMY KIRK: Improvise, adapt, overcome

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Even though many units in the Marines have adopted the mantra, "Improvise, Adapt and Overcome," farmers and ranchers live those words daily.

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Something happens just about every day in agriculture's work environment that needs improvisation, adaption or to be overcome.

These calls to action are a standard aspect of agriculture and are necessary for farming and ranching to continue. Oftentimes living in the country forces folks to improvise by making do with what they have and adding some industrious thinking to remedy a problem, situation or a need. Baling wire is our improvisation implement of choice, and winging it is usually how we adapt to unexpected situations.

Farms and ranches are ideal places where tools and equipment get used in ways for which they weren't intended. At one time, I drove a Ford Explorer as my family vehicle, but after I upgraded to dif ferent wheels the Explorer became an infamous example of improvising on our ranch.

When my husband wanted a little ranch pickup for checking cows and hauling his four-wheeler, he improvised. Instead of buying another vehicle, he and our son modified the Explorer with a cutting torch to accommodate his wants by cutting the top off just behind the front seats.

Once the back seats were folded down, a four-wheeler could be loaded. (The Explorer ranch pickup has since died -- but its legend lives on.)

Since farming and ranching regularly deal with unpredictable things like markets, weather and livestock, people in ag are always having to adapt, from income and plans to the day's projects and expectations. We can plan our heads off but the weather will have the final say, markets will humble our best intentions, and livestock will find holes in our well-prepared plans.

Replacement heifers have always been one of our best sources for fulfilling ranching's necessity to adapt. Several instances have forced us to adjust our plans to gather and load squirrely replacement heifers off the summer pasture we put them on because the place doesn't have a set of corrals.

Of the many schemes we've tried and had to adapt to get the job done, the summer we trained our replacement heifers to come to the feed bunks is the most memorable for me. A few times a week all summer we called them in using our vehicle's horn and gave them a little creep feed.

Once it got closer to moving day, we set up portable panels around the bunks so they'd get used to coming into our improvised holding pen. On moving day, the plan would've worked perfectly ... had we only needed to haul half of the skittish herd, since that's how many actually went into our portable holding pen.

Farmers and ranchers are a resilient lot because they have experience in overcoming challenges, setbacks, and at times, devastation. Harsh winter storms during calving, hailed out crops, drought conditions, sick calves, broken fences -- the list can get pretty long. People in ag are used to squeezing every penny to get the most out of their money by doing things themselves, making do with what they have and muddling through hardships. Thankfully, the one thing that allows farmers and ranchers to be able to continually improvise, adapt and overcome is having a family with a good sense of humor.

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

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