One-man operation is successful with planning in heat synchronization


CARROLLTON, Ohio — A one-man operation that started with 10 cows in 1990 has now grown into a 200-head cattle herd.


John McKarns grew up on a dairy farm, but decided he wanted something different. He new he wanted to be involved with livestock, but didn’t want to milk cows.

So he set out on a mission. He bought a farm in Carroll County in 1990 and went to work right away, growing row crops and making square hay bales. Later that year, he bought his first herd of cattle.

As the cattle herd increased, he phased out the crops, but still makes 450 acres of hay.

The interesting part is that McKarns owns only 55 acres and the balance is rented. The land he farms is split between Columbiana and Carroll counties.

Keys to success

McKarns utilizes artificial insemination using Gelbvieh genetics, but, in the pasture, he still uses nine clean-up bulls that are raised on his farm. In addition, McKarns uses heat synchronization and natural heat to ensure the cattle stay on his breeding program.

He said he is crossing the Angus with the Gelbvieh for a few reasons, mainly because it is a Continental breed, has better weight gain, good conversion rates and double muscling.

McKarns said he is working to develop balanced females in the herd, which will be the cross between the two breeds.

Timing is everything

The one thing McKarns sets firm is his calving dates. He said the calving begins Jan. 5 and is finished by March 15. This allows him to balance his workload because it is a one-man operation.

He works to market all calves straight from the farm through private treaty sales. Cattle are double-wormed and double-vaccinated before the sale.


The real challenge for McKarns is in improving genetics and improving the land. He strives every year to see how many pounds of beef can be gleaned off an acre of land.

McKarns using a grass-based diet in his herd, which includes only forage, salt, water and minerals.

Another area McKarns strives for excellence in is herd recordkeeping. He records the birth weights, the ease of calving, the mothering ability and the weaning weights.


McKarns has also been aggressive with conservation efforts on his farms. He’s installed various projects, including pressurized water tanks, heavy use pads, spring development projects, access roads, stream crossing areas and fencing.

He said his biggest conservation efforts have involved fencing in paddocks and the use of rotational grazing in his practices.

Even though he rents a majority of his pasture land, he uses long-term lease agreements to utilize EQIP funds and getting the property owner involved in the process.

His main goal is to develop his herd so that he is able to sell female breeding stock.


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