Kapenga M Trust Wins Ahuwhenua Trophy

November 2012

Having won the sheep and beef Ahuwhenua Trophy in 2003 the KMT wins for dairy in 2012

Kapenga M Trust dairy farm south of Rotorua was the winner of the coveted Ahuwhenua Trophy – BNZ Maori Excellence in Farming Award for 2012. Kapenga M Trust also won the trophy for sheep and cattle farming in 2003. Sharemilkers Edwin and Marianne Schweizer are in their fifth season on the property calving 1,020 cows. Production has increased from 322,000kg MS to 396,400kg in 2011-12.

Kapenga M has a fundamental and absolute respect for the environment, and maintaining water quality under intensive pastoral agriculture is a primary objective. The vision is to strive to provide the maximum benefits to and for the beneficiary owners of Kapenga M (there are 915 registered shareholders, and that number is growing).

The Trust beat other finalists Tauhara Moana Trust, Waewaetutuki 10 and Wharepi Whanau Trust to take the coveted trophy. The Ahuwhenua Trophy is a prestigious award which celebrates Maori farming and the competition is divided into dairying and sheep and beef – the two awards being on alternating years.

Kapenga M is a farming trust with 1858ha on Tuhourangi land, including dairy, sheep, beef and deer farming operations, and 400ha of forestry.

From the perspective of the Trust, it is of paramount importance to maintain, enhance and preserve the land as a taonga for the benefit of Tuhourangi descendants. The trust makes regular dividends to the owners and educational and Kaumatua grants and was a foundation investor in the Te Arawa Future Farming Training Programme.

With Tuhourangi’s traditional lands and marae destroyed in the Tarawera eruption in 1886, the lands now farmed by Kapenga M have always formed traditional food gathering and production areas.

The trust recently sold a dairy farm at Mamuku and purchased an adjacent 250ha dairy farm in Waikite valley in partnership with sharemilkers Edwin and Marianne Schweizer, in order to utilize their experience gained by dairying on 334ha of the trust’s land. The sharemilking agreement on the main farm has been extended to 2016.

The Ahuwhenua judges said Kapenga M’s strategic plan was a great strength. It linked well with Kapenga’s core values, and was clearly translated into a documented business plan. The business plan is easily monitored with expectations of management transparent.

Kapenga M showed it had addressed all current issues in relation to effluent management, retirement of non-grazeable areas, and riparian plantings. Nitrogen leaching is well understood and sits within the median range and Trustees expect reporting against nitrogen and carbon credit targets.

Kapenga M dairy farm is 334ha, peak milking a herd of 998 Friesian–cross cows. Milk production was 396,400kg in the 2011-12 season, which is 1185kg/ha and 397kg/cow, an increase yield of around 20% since the Schweizers came to the farm. The farm is a system 3 farm with 20% imported feed and has a rolling to steep topography, and produces outcomes which are at the top of the benchmark group for this region.

Farming on both flat and steep contour means that everything is governed by the hills, as variable sized paddocks present a pasture allocation challenge and the sidelings have to be managed very effectively. Edwin says that poor management can result in loss of pasture quality which may take half a year to remedy.

The farm was converted to dairying in 1995 and has operated under 50:50 sharemilking contracts since. The new adjacent joint venture dairy farm is owned 40% by Schweizers and 60% by the Trust, but that was not judged in the Ahuwhenua Trophy.

The Kapenga M farm has four permanent labour units, including a second-in-command, herd manager and two farm assistants, one of whom is devoted to calf rearing.

Imported supplementary feeds are used strategically to ensure stocking rate is appropriate during peak periods of pasture growth (i.e. wintering off) and tactically to maintain intakes and pasture covers during seasonal feed deficit (i.e. PKE) and increase body condition (maize silage). The Trust sets an annual target of under 500kg DM/cow of imported feed (excluding grazing).

1.3t/ha DM of supplements were used last season to support the 2.99cows/ha stocking rate.

Edwin Schweizer says the great thing about working in partnership with a Maori trust is that everything is looked at for the long term. “Every application is done properly, which is a great benefit to sharemilkers. Communication is easy and effective, with a farm sub-committee which meets monthly, and the supervision of Lee Matheson.”

The sharemilker and farm supervisor manage the farm relatively autonomously, with the approval of an annual business plan and regular reporting against this and a whole business scorecard providing the Trust with the necessary degree of control and governance oversight.

The farm consists of approximately 80 paddocks with an average area of 4 ha, with approximately 66% of the area on the eastern side of Tumunui Road; the balance is accessed via an underpass. The 50 bale Rotaflo milking parlour is located more or less in the centre of the farm, although walking distance to the cowshed from either end of the farm can be up to 3km. Races on the farm are primarily constructed from pumice sourced on the property. A 500 cow concrete feed pad with provision for flood wash from stored pond water is located east of the milking parlour and collecting yard. Feed storage areas, including a covered concrete PKE bunker are situated west of the cowshed and feed area. Effluent from both the cowshed and feed pad drain to a 6000m3 lined pond for irrigation over 60ha of the farm. Calf rearing and vehicle storage facilities are located adjacent to the main tanker loop.

With significant areas of broken contour and numerous tributaries of the Taahunaatro stream on the property, maintaining water quality under intensive pastoral agriculture is a significant issue. Water from these streams as associated aquifers provide the primary source of water for not only Kapenga’s dairying and drystock farming operations, but also a large part of the immediate community. As part of the Upper Waikato River and, to a lesser extent, Lake Rotorua catchments, the Trust is also mindful of its responsibilities as regards minimising nutrient loss into the river system and efficient water use.

All of the riparian margins on the entire Kapenga M Trust land holdings have been excluded from stock and replanted to minimise soil loss to the waterways and act as a buffer for nutrients. A conservation flume has been installed below the dairy shed to prevent erosion at the head of a major gully system.

In 2008, a major upgrade of the dairy effluent management system took place, with 6,000m3 (60 days) of storage, along with the use of pod irrigation for use on the hills and a travelling irrigator capable of delivering effluent at less than 10mm/hr. Over the last three years the area available for effluent irrigation has increased from 23ha to 60ha, with further capacity in the pumping system to allow more expansion over time. The dairy farm operation is currently assessed as leaching 44kg N/ha/year which is in the moderate range.

The Trust’s current environmental management plan targets a maximum usage of 150kg N/ha/year, with no nitrogen fertiliser to be applied in the high risk winter period. With the farm now largely developed, direct drilling is the preferred sowing method for forage cropping and regrassing on the dairy unit to reduce the risk of P loss. The farm’s high Olsen P levels (approx 65) provide an elevated risk of phosphorus loss in sediment; consequently reduced levels of maintenance P fertiliser are now applied to moderate soil P status over time to 40-45.

Herd fertility has become an increasing focus for both the Trust and their sharemilker. A 78% six-week in-calf rate has been set by the Trust as a performance measure for the farm, with the herd achieving a 70% in-calf rate last season. Intervention at mating is not used.

All heifers are grazed off the farm with independent graziers from three months of age. All heifers return to the farm on 1 May as in-calf rising two year olds and are grazed at home over that winter. Last year 94% of all R2s calved within six weeks.