Kelso Kontracting is an agricultural contracting business, providing a
seasonal silage-making service as well as dairy conversion and other
agricultural contracting work building laneways, excavating dams,
shed sites, drainage, roading, laying fence-lines, water schemes, land
clearing, rootraking, tree mulching etc.
Kelso Kontracting was established in 1993 by Athol Lawlor and Willie
Henderson who later sold his share to Atholâ€™s son Hamish Lawlor. The
business is named after the almost obsolete village of Kelso, in Otago,
which was abandoned and never fully resettled following several
disastrous floods in the 1970s and 1980s. As the only remaining
business operating in the settlement, Kelso Kontractingâ€™s continued
success keeps the name alive.
Athol and Lorraine Lawlor - establishing the family business
Athol Lawlor grew up on a sheepfarm at Waikaka, near Kelso, and got into
contracting by working for a neighbour with a hay-baling and silage
business. In 1969 Athol bought the business and set himself up as A.R.
Lawlor Ltd, continuing until 1973 when he on-sold the business to Peter
Along with his new wife, Lorraine, Athol then took the opportunity to
join a family partnership farming a 240 hectare block at Wendonside in
The couple stayed there for five years; long enough to earn the deposit
on a 120 hectare sheep and cattle farm at Dacre, north of Invercargill.
When the long farm recession of the 1980s hit, they opted to diversify,
buying a vegetable washing operation. They used a sugarbeet harvester to
harvest the humble Southland Swede. We were soon growing and selling
500 tonnes of swedes a year to supermarkets throughout the South
Island. They also reared about 100 bull calves a year on the waste from
the swede operation
To Kelso and the Agricultural Contracting business
In 1992 The Lawlors accepted an impromptu offer, and sold the farm along
with the washing plant. They decided to enter semi-retirement, buying
the present Kelso farm and raising calves on silage, for which Athol
bought an old tow-behind chopper. The semi-retirement didnâ€™t last long
because neighbours kept asking them to make silage for them, and they
quickly found themselves back in agricultural contracting, partnering
with one such neighbour, Willie Henderson. Between Lawlorsâ€™ chopper and
a truck, and Hendersonâ€™s digger and a truck, Kelso Kontracting was
Hamish Lawlor introduces new contracting services to Kelso
After a couple of years Willie Henderson decided to call it a day, and
he sold his share of Kelso Kontracting to the Lawlorsâ€™ son Hamish.
Hamish has been able to take the contracting company beyond seasonal
silage-making and into the year-round work of building laneways,
excavating dams and effluent ponds, shed sites, tiling draining, roading
base course and fencing using innovative ideas.
After finishing his studies at Menzies College in Wyndham, Hamish had
gone on to complete a fitting and turning apprenticeship with Colin
Donald Engineering at Edendale. During his apprenticeship Hamish Lawlor
was involved in dozens of dairy conversions, building rotary platforms
and doing yard work, along with general engineering work. Hamish
completed his apprenticeship in 1997, and joined his father in Kelso
Father and son work well together, each in his own speciality. With
Hamishâ€™s experience in helping Southland farmers convert their sheep
farms into dairying and Atholâ€™s near-40 yearsâ€™ experience making silage
for them they enjoy a unique perspective on the dairy industry that is
now the main focus of their business.
Kelso Kontractingâ€™s present day operations and plant
Kelso Kontracting currently employs 15 permanent staff, supplemented by
four or five seasonal drivers for the rakes and mowers during the height
of the silage harvest season.
Kelso Kontracting Silage-making operations:
The main silage machines are a John Deere chopper and a Fendt tractor with a triple mower
, Fendt Tractor with Rotary Rake an Hitachi digger equipped with a silage grab,J CB Loader and 4 Mercedes trucks, plus mobile weighing platform
Dairy Conversion and Earthmoving Operations:
The dairy conversion earthmoving gear includes:
- Four Hitachi diggers,
- Komatsu grader with a laser guided blade leveller
- Tractor mounted FAE mobile rock-crusher (2)
- Assorted truck, trailers, water cart, and bottom-dumpers
- Tractor mounted triple plate compactor
- Self propelled rollers
- PSI Grader/loader
- Fendt tractor/earth scoop (2)
- Three of the diggers are 20-tonners, and the third, of 13
tonnes, is fitted with both a grader blade and a post compactor â€“ the
latter mounted on the front where it has proved so efficient that one of
the operators recently set a company record by driving 500 posts in six
Transport for both the silage and earthmoving gear is provided by a
Mercedes tractor unit with an up-to-date transport trailer.
The future of Kelso Kontracting and the Lawlors
Kelso Kontracting recently moved its base from the Kelso farm to the old
Barrow box sawmill site near Tapanui. The decision was partly due to
the need for more buildings to house the companyâ€™s increasing plant, and
also to provide space for Hamish to expand his engineering interests.
The 12 hectare Tapanui site, which has several large buildings, is still
contaminated with preservative chemicals from the old milling
operation, but work has begun on its rehabilitation, with the help of
Kelso Kontractingâ€™s investment in the property.
Kelso Kontracting supporting industry training through InfraTrain
Athol Lawlor is a great believer in providing training opportunities for
his staff under the umbrella of the industry training organisation
InfraTrain. Athol helped write the industry standards in agricultural
contracting for Infratrain, and by 2008, Kelso Kontracting had supported
one apprentice through to graduation as a qualified agricultural
contractor, with several more completing their unit standards since
Athol Lawlor has also been prominent in the Rural Contractors Association
, always with the aim of bring ever-greater levels of professionalism into the industry.
He has now been appointed to the board of Infra Train. Kelso
Kontracting is both a registered and qualified member of the Rural
| Lorraine Lawlor
|| Hamish Lawlor
|| Athol Lawlor
Kelso Kontracting now employs two engineers.
One qualified and one an apprentice.
Also one fully qualified A grade Diesel mechanic.