A $21,000 investment in telemetry equipment designed to automate and monitor livestock watering systems has been paid back in less than a year for a NSW cattle enterprise. This article and video, produced by Meat & Livestock Australia, demonstrates how the time-saving technology works.
Click on video above to see how the telemetry system on Gilgai Farms works.
Farm consultant Mark Gardner believes telemetry is a viable investment for any livestock producer with piped, tanked or troughed water and pumps.
A director of Vanguard Business Services based in Dubbo NSW, Mark led an MLA-funded Producer Demonstration Site (PDS) that tested the effectiveness of a Livestock Water Management system developed by Observant on the Harvey family’s Gilgai Farms at Geurie in central NSW.
The trial documented the costs of installation, identified potential issues and challenges, and monitored the impact of the technology on the costs and time-savings.
The Harvey family captured data to calculate the payback period for the technology, allowing for wages, fuel costs, and vehicle wear and tear.
The trial was the first on-farm demonstration of the commercial installation and use of remote monitoring of stock water in Central West NSW.
“Telemetry has been demonstrated further west in the pastoral areas, but we wanted to trial it in a more closely settled area,” Mr Gardner said.
“Eric Harvey’s farm is quite undulating, with lots of trees and patchy mobile phone coverage.
“Phil Whitton from Observant was confident it would work, though, as the system can use UHF and Next G in combination.”
The trial showed telemetry was a viable cost-saving technology, from both a practical perspective in hilly terrain, as well as having a short payback period.
The trialled system cost $21,000, but Mark said a lower-cost system was possible. The PDS trialled a higher cost system so it could use all the features to test the capacity of a range of telemetry devices in hilly country.
“The system allowed the full range of monitoring on a number of water systems, cameras, weather stations and remote pump stop-start on a large property aggregation,” he said
Based on a $30/hour labour cost and an 80¢/km rate for vehicle use, the payback period was less than one year.
As the producers developed trust in the system and made fewer physical checks, the payback period fell to 9.6 months.
“We trialled a ‘Rolls Royce’ system, but we also looked at payback times on more basic systems,” Mr Gardner said.
“Savings could be made by removing the mobile camera and power unit, or reducing the scope of pump automation. The fastest payback we found was 8.2 months.
“I think the larger your property, the quicker the payback will be. It is technology that all livestock producers with piped, tanked or troughed water and pumps can look at as a viable investment.”
Mark said the biggest challenge was retro-fitting the automation technology to existing pumps.
“Ideally, you would buy pumps that are pre-wired, but not everyone can start with new gear,” he said.
Observant provided good telephone technical support and were able to diagnose some problems online, but Mark said local technical support and installation was an issue at this stage.
“This is new technology, so support will come as it is taken up,” he said.
Lessons learned at the PDS:
1. Get a full system designed first. You don’t have to install it all at once, but have it designed by a supplier with a good reputation.
2. To get the most value, you need a smartphone and get used to it before you start using telemetry. The system also lends itself to an iPad.
3. If you are putting in a new water system, plan for adding telemetry. Buy pumps and motors that allow telemetry to be fitted down the track.
4. Visit sites where telemetry is established.
Source: MLA. To view original article on MLA website click here