10 Feb 2014

Drought-proof mission

3:39 pm on 10 February 2014

A Marlborough farmer who is advising others on how to drought-proof their farms is seeing plenty of evidence of them picking up the ideas, he says.

Doug Avery is fronting a Beyond Reasonable Drought road show in Hawke's Bay, the East Coast and Bay of Plenty.

He has been talking to farmers about how he and his family rescued their farm from collapse after a series of droughts in the 1990s.

They turned it into a highly productive and profitabe operation by changing from a grass-based pasture system to lucerne, and the message about its drought-resistant properties has been spreading.

"The increased area of lucerne is absolutely huge, particularly in the South Island, but there are now a lot of farmers in the North Island that are getting the experience and the knowledge of how to put this plant out and make some good growth with it," Mr Avery said.

"I've been out there talking about this for a heck of a long time now, and I've learned through that process that it takes people a long time, as it did myself, to get to grips with the thinking processes and management techniques."

But lucerne was only part of the solution, he said.

"The lucerne has no doubt played a major part in our change but over and above that (are) systems changes and integrated management processes."

Tauranga-based business consultancy Teaming Up and a group of accountancy firms organised the Beyond Reasonable Drought road show, which started at Waipawa in Hawke's Bay on Monday.