Great Farming Stories

Kepler Farm - Travis Leslie & Catriona Cunningham

15 February 2019

Kepler Farm - Travis Leslie & Catriona Cunningham

Kepler Farm, managed by Travis Leslie and Catriona Cunningham, has a glowing reputation.

Coveting Landcorp’s highest eating quality status - the farm is part of Landcorp’s genetic programme - Kepler commands attention for all the right reasons.
Travis and Catriona’s brilliant results culminated in taking the top title of Southland Ballance Farm Environment Award Regional Supreme Winner, and the couple describes the honour as “thrilling”.  “To have your work recognised by your peers is amazing.”

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 over the last 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, as is environmental awareness.

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 next ten years or so are going to be great time to be farming. Balancing production and environment will take a whole new skillset and attitude change.”

Awards Won

Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award

Massey University Innovation Award

Predator Free Farm Award

Environment Southland Water Quality and Biodiversity Award

2019 Southland Regional Supreme Winner