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ARTICLES >> Environment Articles

Moving Beyond Reasonable Drought

Posted by Bestprac on Jan 22 2012

By John Squires
Doug and Wendy Avery of Bonavaree Farm Co Ltd in Marlborough, New Zealand, visited Australia in August to present information at the National Bestprac Forum which was held in Hawker.

You can view Doug’s Forum presentation here.

In association with their son Fraser and daughter-in-law Shelley, Doug and Wendy run a dynamic business that produces wool, prime lambs and lucerne seed.

Doug and Wendy started farming in one of the wettest decades since records began and had a “crunch time” when, in 1996, they moved into one of the driest periods on record. There was a strong sense of failure as the accepted farming systems failed and the land was exposed to significant erosion risk.

Doug reached the point where “he didn’t want what he had, but didn’t know how to get what he wanted”. After much soul searching, Doug began to investigate grazing systems based on chemical fallow and lucerne pastures. This system has gradually evolved beyond lucerne and includes lucerne, winter rape, feed barley, saltbush on the northern slopes, clover and other high performing forage crops. Average stocking rate across all paddocks is 12 ewes/ha with 180% lambing and lamb growth rates of 400 gms/day. Tagasaste has also been planted to provide forage for bumble bees which assist with lucerne and pasture seed pollination.

The system that is now being used is seen as being sustainable from a number of different angles:

  • The system is resilient to extreme weather and extreme variability (from 330mm to 900mm) between seasons.
  • There are relatively low requirements for energy and additional water, beyond seasonal rainfall.
  • There are good levels of groundcover and the system is kind to the soil.
  • The system provides habitat and doesn’t displace wildlife.
  • Money is made in good years and not all lost in bad years.
  • The system recovers quickly from shocks and stresses.
  • The business is able to attract and retain talented people and quality companies want to do business with Bonavaree Farm.
  • The system includes “quiet periods” when the labour requirements are low, providing an important time for the people to rest and refresh.
  • The system produces things that are in high demand for good prices.

A number of the participants, at both of the presentations, compared the above list to their own farming systems and saw some areas which they felt could be improved. Doug described how he moved from “concern thinking” to “influence thinking”. In doing so, he identified solutions to the problems and has been able to take control of his farming system.

Doug is now a member of the Farm IQ System Ltd that provides an opportunity for all New Zealand farmers to improve their knowledge of their farming system, through a number of training, development and support programs.


Last changed: Apr 17 2012

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