Thursday, March 1, 2018
For the past 20 years, Nebraska AgrAbility, a collaborative effort of UNL Extension and Easter Seals of Nebraska, has supported Nebraska farmers and ranchers facing disabilities or disabling health conditions. Health conditions ranging from stroke to spinal cord injuries, the program provides specific recommendations for farm site and equipment modifications for farmers and ranchers to support them in reaching their full work potential and doing what they love most.
Nebraska rancher Rowan Ballagh inquired about AgrAbility when his former classmate raved about the assistance he received.
“He was very well satisfied,” says Ballagh. “I thought that it was time I gave it a try.”
Ballagh grew up on a ranch near Amelia, Nebraska, where his family raised cattle, rode horses, flipped hay, and attended rodeos. He planned to continue ranching for the rest of his life, but was instead called to serve his country.
“I was drafted in the Vietnam War,” he says. “I was an infantryman. They sent me to the central highlands of Vietnam.”
During his military tour with the search and destroy unit, Ballagh sustained a bullet wound on his right shoulder.
“I had fairly minimal use of the arm when I returned home,” Ballagh says. “So, I became dependent on my left arm.”
Ballagh returned to the family ranch, married and continued his agricultural passion. Now, nearly 50 years later, back problems, arthritis, and weakness of the left arm offer new challenges to him.
“My left arm and hand was just getting weaker all the time,” Ballagh says. “AgrAbility was my opportunity to continue ranching.”
Ballagh worked closely with AgrAbility Rural Rehabilitation Specialist Emily Freudenburg and Rodney Peterson to come up with the best plan to meet his equipment and accessibility needs on his ranch. Rowan’s biggest need on his ranch was his chute. His current manual chute requires him to be standing, moving back and forth and lifting both arms above his head, which not only is a challenge, but also could be causing more damage. Nebraska AgrAbility recommended a hydraulic chute in which all levers are at waist level and at the push of a button. The new chute system will allow Rowan to increase his production, become more efficient and overcome the limitations of his back and the overuse of his shoulders, preserving his operation for may years to come.
“I would definitely recommend AgrAbility to farm and ranch folks who have disabilities,” says Ballagh.