Charlie and Katie Croft

Even before Charlie and Katie Croft became involved in the pilot farm project they were already looking at ways to change their system to better cope with drought. The Croft's 300hafarm in Amberley, North Canterbury was in the middle of a drought when they came on board with the pilot and the objective was to create a system that was more resilient to drought conditions. The rolling hill country property has 1900 ewes, 477 hoggets and 45 rams and 25 ha of cropping including maize, oats and barley for baleage. There is a mixture of soil types on the property and it is located on a water table but has no irrigation.

Having access to expert advice through the pilot project has boosted the Croft's confidence to make changes. Their meat processor, Alliance Group, who set up a group of farmers to be a part of the pilot, connected the Crofts with the appropriate expert advice.

Derrick Moot from Lincoln University visited and spoke about lucerne, a fertilizer rep and Wayne Allan, who is a Farm Consultant, also contributed specialist advice. Wayne used Farmax to model a range of drought scenarios which led to a number of changes to their system. These included further development of lucerne, sub-clover and red clover plus a trial of brassicas. A whole farm soil test determined soil health and a change to soluble fertilizer was made. They also reduced ewe numbers and increased the number of lambs finished in winter.

Being able to utilize a farm consultant regularly has helped Charlie and Katie build some resilience and flexibility into their business which should help them recover faster from a drought.

"Wayne gave us confidence in our decisions more than anything. We are all thinking along the same lines but he can just provide us with information that cements the idea… backed up with his experience with other clients."

Wayne sees his role as mentoring Charlie and Katie who he rates as very good farmers and helping them build more confidence.

"Charlie's always seeking something that's better and sometimes it's able to happen and sometimes he's probably in a good position where he is, but he's always seeking something better which is good."

Aside from the practical farm support, Charlie and Katie have felt more connected with other farmers through the pilot which has helped them deal with the harsh realities of farming in a drought. Shona Frengley, who is the facilitator for Alliance Group has been able to invite them along to additional events outside of the pilot group which has been helpful.

"Because they're on my radar they get invited to events that I run and they've both turned up at those and found them really worthwhile. "

Combining expert advice with Farmax modelling has led to a powerful case for change giving the Crofts confidence to make some hard decisions

"We believe we are in a much better position than we would have been without the pilot. Being a part of the pilot and the ongoing support from Shona and Wayne is really important and it helps keep us focused on the longer-term outcomes"