WHAT time of year you calve can depend on many factors, writes BRIAN CLANCY
Spring or autumn calving? It's all a matter of choice, profits and your country.
Charolais and Red Angus stud breeder Tom Lawson of Paringa Livestock at Murrindindi favours spring.
"If the focus is on the whole of farm, spring calving will get better returns, but if the focus is on individual animals, the autumn calving will give you a better price," Tom said.
But if both systems were managed properly, there shouldn't be much difference in the returns.
Tom said the best returns from autumn calving were when calves were early weaned in July-August, with savings in hay and labour.
"I just don't like burning diesel," he said in a reference to less hand feeding usually associated with spring calving.
Early weaning of autumn calvers also meant less "empty" cows.
Tom said while the whole farm returns favoured spring calving, autumn calving still had its benefits.
He said it was generally much easier to join cows for an autumn calving.
But against that, breeders who had opted for spring calving could generally run more cows.
For cattle breeders, the decision between autumn and spring calving would depend on the end product.
Tom defined his spring calving as a joining commencing November 1, for a calving beginning mid-August.
He said because Paringa was in the business of a breeding a Euro-type calf, many of his customers tended to favour a spring calving so that cattle could be finished as yearling beef in the second spring.
Paringa, which markets 18-month-old spring-drop bulls at on-farm auction in March, will this year be selling yearling bulls at a private treaty sale on October 12.
Holbrook Hereford breeder Marc Greening of Injemira Beef Genetics in NSW also believes breeders had to decide what type product they were producing and then match their calving patterns to their business and the feed supply.
Marc said he understood the argument in favour of higher stocking rates with a spring calving, but in his own situation he preferred the autumn, or what he called an early winter calving - April-May.
"Up here (Holbrook) it is too hot to calve February-March," he said.
And because he was in the business of breeding 450kg British feeder steers for delivery to the feedlot in June-July, he couldn't get those weights with a spring-drop calf.
Another reason why he favoured the early winter calving was to avoid any late-drop spring calves running into a dry summer.
Mark said there was a big swing in his area to spring calving eight years ago, based on the advice of several advisers.
"But I suspect many have gone back to an autumn calving," he said.
Meat and Livestock Australia trumpets the decision by Terang producers Brad and Marg Gilmour to switch from two calvings - autumn and spring to their current spring calving, which began September 1.
The Gilmours were producing autumn-drop Angus steers which were sold at 10 months, whereas the spring calves were sold at 7-8 months.
Marg said she owed much of the change to her involvement in the Hamilton Beef Profit Partnership group where members were required to use a cost-of-production calculator to analyse their inputs and output.
She said the differences were quite a surprise and very much in favour of spring calving.
"We found spring calving was much more efficient," Marg said.
"While you don't get as big a return for a spring calf as an autumn one, the input costs are a lot lower.
"We don't have to make as much hay.
"You can also run your dry cows a little harder at that time of the year as there is still quite good feed growth during the summer months."
At the time when the calculations were done two years ago, the spring calving returned 22 cents a kilogram more than the autumn calving.
The Gilmours this year will be calving down 650 cows and heifers in a six-week period.
Next year, they hope to lift that number to 800 and raise their stocking to 20 dry sheep equivalents per hectare. Ultimately, they want to achieve a 5 per cent increase per kg of animal produced each hectare.
But Marg is the first to admit that while spring calving looks considerably more profitable in what she describes as "late country", it might not not be suitable in other districts.