Kepler Farm in Te Anau was announced the Regional Supreme Winner at this evening’s 2019 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust.
The Ballance Farm Environment Awards champion sustainable farming and growing through an awards programme which sees one Regional Supreme Winner selected from each of the 11 regions involved. These Regional Supreme Winners will be profiled at the Awards’ National Sustainability Showcase in Hamilton, on Thursday 6 June, with each in the running for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy.
Kepler Farm, managed by Travis Leslie and Catriona Cunningham, is the Regional Supreme Winner thanks to a glowing reputation relating to its environmental awareness and genetics programme.
Travis and Catriona assumed manager roles on the sheep and beef farm in January 2012. Together, they have taken the operation from strength-to-strength, striking the challenging balance between being dedicated parents and professionals. In both capacities, they rise to the occasion with passion and pride.
Carrying approximately 7300 sheep and 1650 cattle, the main focus of the operation is its terminal sire sheep flock, FocusPrime. Through this programme, 500 rams are sent to sale each December, both in-house to other Landcorp properties, and on the public market as well. Lambing percentage during the past three years has been at 150% with commercial ewes, and a large number of cattle were also traded on the property. The genetics programme, undertaken in association with Landcorp, is a significant priority for Travis, Catriona and their extended team
The judges were impressed by the farm’s extensive commitment to biodiversity. In the last two years, more than 10,000 trees, plants and shrubs have been planted in riparian zones and as shelter for stock. The judges noted the well-thought-out shelterbelts, which help to protect stock from the prevailing winds and provide shade for hot summer days.
Since arriving at the farm, Fescue has been introduced and now totals 600ha. The introduction of Fescue has been a gamechanger for Kepler Farm, enabling all the cattle to be grass wintered, with the focus now on grass wintering a portion of the sheep flock.
Travis has inspiring ambitions for the future of the farm and the wider primary sector: “We’ve always done the environmental work, but it got to a stage where we wanted to share what we had achieved. Farms belong to New Zealand and it is nice to think that one day farmland could be seen in the way national parks are.”
The judges said: “Kepler Farm is an amazing example of a large-scale farm where high-productivity farming and environmental sustainability have been achieved. An extremely high level of biodiversity exists across the whole property.”
This year, Kepler Farm is the esteemed recipient of not only the Supreme Regional Award but also the:
Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award – this focuses on the excellent management of soil and nutrients;
Massey University Innovation Award – this recognises the farmer or grower that demonstrated Kiwi ingenuity for solving a problem or pursuing a new opportunity
Predator Free NZ Trust Predator Free Farm Award – this recognises the efforts of land managers to successfully control animal predators to achieve native biodiversity outcomes;
Environment Southland Water Quality & Biodiversity Award – this recognises the farmer who demonstrates sustainable farming practices, particularly with regard to water quality and biodiversity.
Each year, the Ballance Farm Environment Awards’ ceremonies, the National Sustainability Showcase, and winners’ field days offer a unique, pan-sector forum for networking and the sharing of ideas and information among farming/growers peers, agribusiness professionals and the wider community.
The Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards’ Field Day will be Thursday 9 May 2019.