Saturday, April 13, 2024

‘Waste not, want not’ mindset fuels Wangapeka Farms

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A fourth-generation West Coast farming family gets some help on fencing costs as it continues to make sustainable changes.
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Leigh and Tilly Kees have made sustainable choices by not letting much go to waste in the years they have farmed Wangapeka Farms at Little Wanganui, northwest Buller.

“I farm how my generation did, looking at the land and working with it for the best outcome for my animals,” Leigh says.

Water, for example, is drawn for cooling the milk system, pumped into holding tanks for washdown and for water reticulation. 

The farm gets 2500mm of rain a year. The ground is 244ha of peat clay/sand with the rest being free-draining river run on heavy humped and hallowed ground.

The farm’s effluent ponds are pumped onto the paddocks depending on the weather, returning fertility and reduce the need for any synthetic fertilisers. 

“We are currently researching dung beetles to add nitrates and phosphates in the dung as a natural fertilizer to aid our soil quality and subsequent grazing,” Leigh says.

Supplements are expensive due to Karamea being so isolated, and what today is called carbon freight emissions, Leigh calls common sense. 

“We winter the cows on farm, utilising winter crops. This slows pasture rotation keeping it for when its best utilised in the spring. We also use summer crops to help lift production.”

Son Greg and his wife Amy moved onto the farm in 2020 after Leigh and Tilly decided to semi-retire. They have since grown their family with son Arlo, now 4.

They milk 450 Kiwicross cows once a day, producing over 400kg milksolids per cow. Leigh buys in pure-breed beef bulls to put over the dairy cows that fall outside their A2 breeding plan. 

The bulls produce a larger dairy-beef cross calf that is hand-reared until weaning.

More recently Greg and Amy updated the milking platform as well as installing an in-shed feeding system to increase minerals to the cows. Greg said changing the configuration allowed for more efficient access, milking, animal health and general streamlining of processes. 

“My grandparents and parents have done an amazing job on this farm with huge sacrifice and drive to develop it to where it is today. I always wanted to continue the legacy and we feel privileged we are,” Greg says.

Greg and Amy have continued his parent’s work by fencing over 7km of waterways, wetlands and ditches. This gained momentum in 2020 when they came across low-cost recycled fence post provider Repost. 

The company recycles viticulture waste into durable low-cost fence posts, selling half and quarter rounds in 1.6m and 1.8m lengths. It is based in Marlborough and recently expanded to Hawke’s Bay.

Repost owner Greg Coppell is a fifth-generation sheep and beef farmer based in St Arnaud, Nelson. His father, Allan Coppell, and previous generations were dairy farmers in Tākaka, Golden Bay. 

Their farming background means they understand that farming has big ups and big downs. Having Repost, a resource that is still affordable in tighter times, is a big help. 

Repost makes mandatory compliance in the sector financially accessible and sustainable for farmers, Amy says.

“We couldn’t get past the low prices. They are good quality and I didn’t have a problem installing them. Our fences are 1/8 one-quarter rounds using two hot wires installed using tractor/post driver. We sold some bundles onto five other farms too.”

This article first appeared in the September edition of our sister publication, Dairy Farmer.

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