About Kelso Kontracting

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 Athol’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 Kontracting’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 Mardon.

Along with his new wife, Lorraine, Athol then took the opportunity to join a family partnership farming a 240 hectare block at Wendonside in northern Southland.

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 didn’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 Lawlors’ chopper and a truck, and Henderson’s digger and a truck, Kelso Kontracting was born.

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 Lawlors’ 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 Kontracting.
Father and son work well together, each in his own speciality. With Hamish’s experience in helping Southland farmers convert their sheep farms into dairying and Athol’s near-40 years’ experience making silage for them they enjoy a unique perspective on the dairy industry that is now the main focus of their business.

Kelso Kontracting’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 – 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 hours.

    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 company’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 Kontracting’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 then.
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 Contractors Association

 Lorraine Lawlor
   Hamish Lawlor
   Athol Lawlor

Engineering Division

Kelso Kontracting now employs two engineers.
One qualified and one an apprentice.
Also one fully qualified A grade Diesel mechanic.