ALL-YEAR-ROUND calving dairy herds made 30,000 less profit than those with a seasonal calving block, according to financial results from Dairy Australia. This highlights the need for UK producers to think carefully before altering calving patterns.

Dairy Australia’s top 25% year-round calving herds, averaging 321ha (790 acres) and 6100 litres a cow output, averaged a net profit of 35,808 ($82,000) in 2002. But the equivalent seasonal calving herds, averaging 204ha and 5600 litres a cow, generated 64,192 ($147,000).

Two-thirds of these herds calve in spring to match production with grass growth, while the year-round calving herds supply the liquid market.

Dairy Australia’s John O’Connor says average production costs for year-round herds were higher, reflecting increased feeding costs. In addition, 30% of costs were due to overheads, compared with 24% for seasonal calvers.

UK milk buyers are offering premiums encouraging herds to switch to all-year calving. Rewards for this can be 0.8p/litre in income, says Kite Consulting’s John Allen. “This premium warrants the extra costs of running a year-round calving herd,” he says.

But Anderson’s Tony Evans believes few producers can make year-round calving work. “Unfortunately, year-round calving herds generally have higher overheads and employ more capital, while technical performance suffers. Yields need to be at least 8500 litres a cow because of the investment in kit.”