The Garman family has worked to develop their own genetic lines

Rod Garman was raised in Gentry, Ark., where he learned the importance of a strong work ethic.

“Nothing comes easy; nothing comes cheap,” Rod said. “You have to work hard and have to take risks to be successful.”

Rod and Jamie Garman put that philosophy to work in 2004 when they began Ground Zero Construction and purchased their first 350 acres near Jamie’s parents in Watts, Okla. Northwest Arkansas is a fast-growing area and so was the company, which now specializes in pipeline digging, road construction and large-scale construction, including subdivisions. At the same time, they bought land very close to Jamie’s parents, a place where Jamie played and rode horses as a kid. Then three years ago, they started Garman Trucking which has grown to a fleet of over 50 trucks for hire with 22-year-old son Ethan now managing that business while 20-year-old son Emitt finishes college.

Rod and Jamie began Ground Zero Farms with a herd of 34 strongly Angus-influenced commercial cows. They now own 2,400 acres and lease an additional 2,000 on which they run a Black Hereford show and breeding stock operation.

The shift to Black Herefords began when they purchased 150 black baldy heifers. These heifers produced calves with higher weaning rates that also brought more money per pound than their Angus-influenced mommas. While looking for more black baldy females, Rod discovered the Black Hereford Association and bought a couple of bulls. Impressed with the breed, Rod wanted to purchase females but found they were unavailable and decided to breed his own. He then purchased 87 registered Hereford pairs and bred heifers. Females were subsequently bred by AI using Angus bulls to produce a first cross called an F1. Next the F1 heifers were back to a Hereford or Black Hereford bloodline in order to meet the 62 1/2 percent Hereford requirement for a registered Black Hereford.

“Because we wanted to develop our own genetics, we purchased high-quality registered Hereford cows thereafter using AI with the most popular black Angus bloodlines,” Rod said. “The popular bloodlines ensure the highest dollar beef index with higher weaning and yearling weights.”

The steepest learning curve for the breeding operation was in the AI process. One major issue was the extremely short window for successful impregnation. They soon discovered they needed complete control over the entire process in order to obtain the greatest possible pregnancy rate and hired a ranch manager who oversaw everything, including performing the AI.

Ground Zero Farm now supports 600 registered cows that are genetically defect free. The Black Hereford herd has 250 cows, while the Hereford herd has 400 with both supplemented by 50 Angus mommas bred by AI to Hereford bulls with the goal of producing bulls for cleanup duty at the ranch.

In 2018, a new on-site, a 11,000 square-foot sale facility was constructed to provide buyers with a comfortable and state-of-the-art facility. The ranch sells 250 breeding-age bulls from 12 to 24 months per year by private treaty or through an on-site sale, which will be in March.

Show heifers, cow/calf pairs and bred heifers are also included in the sale. The sale is typically attended by 200 cattle buyers on site, but is also videoed and available online for those who choose not to attend in person.

“If we wouldn’t use an animal we have produced as breeding stock ourselves for any reason, we cull, typically at weaning and yearling ages,” Rod explained.

The ranch has produced an astonishing 17 male and female national grand champions, in a variety of categories in the 14 years since it was founded. One recent example is raising the 2018 National Grand Champion Black Hereford Bull. Not surprisingly, Rod has a robust semen business in addition to his cattle sales.

A favorite family memory surrounds Ethan and Emitt showing and competing against each other with two unrelated but high-quality heifers. One was more showy and the other more like a working momma. They competed across the country including Kansas City, Denver and Fort Worth with one taking grand champion and the other reserve champion, switching places according to judge preferences.

One reason for the ranch’s success is attention to detail. In addition to typical health protocols, all animals receive an annual MultiMin vitamin shot which Rod believes increases overall growth and health in addition to providing better immunity. Another example is the process used to develop their rations. Both corn and wheat silage are used but tested before different rations are developed for various cattle types such as bulls, wet cows and dry. A third example is combining commercial fertilizer with Grazon which is then broadcast sprayed in one application in the spring and resulting in highly productive pastures. Finally, as often as is possible, bunk broke calves are weaned with cows just across the fence for 30 to 40 days to make the process less stressful.

Ground Zero Farms is successful but never satisfied. One goal is to continually improve genetics which can only lead to better beef for consumers. Another goal is to wait as patiently as possible for 1-year-old grandson Riggs to become part of the fun.


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