Meet Kiri Tapsell, Our Lighthouse Farmer
Contributor: Sally Lee
Pukenga Farms, situated at Maketū bordering the Kaikokopu Stream, runs beef and kiwifruit. Kiri Tapsell, manages the farm on behalf of the family-owned business. The 159 hectare (ha) effective area is made up of 9.8 ha Gold Kiwifruit, 4.7 ha Hayward Green Kiwifruit, 2.2 ha of Red Kiwifruit and 133 ha for livestock. The balance of ineffective land is made up of drains, tracks, scrub and plantings.
The livestock portion of the farm has traditionally been run as a dairy unit, but in 2020 the farm opted to change to a beef breeding and finishing unit. This decision was to reduce significant capital expense and environmental challenges in the future.
Now Kiri runs an Angus cow herd of 130 - aiming for 200 - with a focus on selling progeny as 2 year olds.
As part of ongoing development, the goal is to retire 3.5 ha for a wetland along the wettest part of the farm adjacent to the Waewaetutuki wetland. Retiring non-productive land will create a habitat for birds and other wildlife, and may improve water quality and nutrient load.
In conjunction with this, the drains will be refenced and planted on one side. Approximately one-third of the flat area (100 effective ha) has already been re-fenced and one side of the drain is due to be planted this winter. This will provide shade and shelter not only for the waterway but for livestock too.
Already the farm is conscious of its fertiliser applications and has implemented a more strategic use with it having one of the lighter N loss (kgN/ha) footprints. As a dairy farm, the N loss for a 3-year rolling average was 75 kgN/ha compared to an estimated 15 kgN/ha under beef. Sulphate of ammonia, potassium sulphate, dolomite and lime are the key fertiliser inputs in the system.
Kiri and his family have a proactive approach to protecting the environment and are keen to learn and adopt farm systems that provide long-term sustainability for the family and the estuary.