Shamrock Vale Farms: Transition


CARROLLTON, Ohio — Shamrock Vale Farms started out in the dairy business, but eventually made its way into the Angus industry. Years later, the farm is getting ready to make another transition.


When Earl and Nedra McKarns got married 53 years ago, they started Shamrock Vale Farm with 12 milk cows and 137 acres, and concentrated on making their living off the farm. They grew the operation and, over the years, have bought four farms and joined them together.

The farm transitioned to beef in 1975, starting with approximately 35 commercial calves. McKarns went into the registered Angus business in 1978.

Current operation

Today, the farm has 180 cow-calf pairs and 65 replacement heifers. The farm spans across 350 acres across Carroll County. The family also rents an additional 200 acres for hay production. The herd has been closed since 1981 and uses an artificial insemination program.

The farm does not raise any row crops, but instead raises hay and concentrates on a grass feeding operation for the cattle.

Their son, Dan started taking over ownership of the cattle in 2002.

Grass-based system

The operation uses an pasture-based intensive grazing system. In the winter, round bales that have been stockpiled in paddocks are used to supplement the grass.

One thing that can be noticed on the farm paddocks is the lack of shade. This is on purpose and there are reasons for it: manure and urine.

They have removed the trees over the years to prevent cattle from staying under the trees and leaving the manure deposits in one area. If there are no trees, the cattle roam the entire paddock and the manure is spread over the entire area. This helps keep fertilizer bills down and the forage growth is more uniform.

“It works for us,” said Dan McKarns.


In an average year, the cattle are moved through each paddock between nine and 10 times. The frequent movement helps limit compaction, if the cattle are moved approximately every 12 hours.

EQIP cost-share funds have been used to help install 3,000 feet of water line. An additional 3,500 feet of waterline was installed to a barn used for calving.

A total of 5,000 feet of the line is underground.

The McKarns have made adaptations over the years to their pastures and paddocks in an attempt to keep cattle out of streams as much as possible.

One area the McKarns are most proud of is the health record they have for their herd. Earl said he became concerned about the diseases, Johne’s and leukosis, through his work in the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association and became one of the first herds to test for the diseases. He has been testing the herd for more than 17 years.

Change is in the works

The marketing program used on the farm had been private treaty and through Angus sales across the state and area. However, a complete female herd dispersal sale is set for Labor Day weekend, Sept. 4.

Dan will be keeping 40 cows and calves and is starting a commercial cow herd. And the farm will continue to have Angus bulls to sell.


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